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Friday, November 19, 2010

Vea to join Vandals

senior verbally commits to play at wac school
by Joe Ferraro
West Hawaii Today
Friday, November 19, 2010 9:08 AM HST
Peni Vea became quite comfortable playing safety at Kealakehe the past three years. But when a Division I school like Idaho offers him a full-ride scholarship, the senior has no problem changing positions.

Vea has verbally committed to play football at the Western Athletic Conference school, and the Vandals want to utilize the 6-foot-1, 185-pound senior as a linebacker.

"I feel thankful,'' Vea said Thursday. "I'm really excited to have this opportunity."

Vea could not pinpoint an exact day of his verbal commitment, saying he informed Idaho defensive line coach Eti Ena of his decision sometime last week, shortly after Waianae ended the Waveriders' season with a 34-16 victory in the first round of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football State Championships on Nov. 12.

Vea said he received letters of interest from Utah State, Wyoming, Oregon State, UCLA and Montana, and that Hawaii asked for game film of his high school career. Vea expected other offers, but he couldn't pass up a full-ride scholarship -- even if that meant playing somewhere other than safety.

"If it's linebacker they want, I'll go in as a linebacker,'' said Vea, who spent some time at linebacker for the Waveriders this past season.

The senior is known for being a big hitter, but Vea said Ena was impressed with his lateral movement on the football field.

"They like how I'm like a sideline-to-sideline player -- quick to the ball,'' Vea said.

Vea said the topic of redshirting came up when he and Ena spoke. At 185 pounds, Vea knows he must bulk up to play linebacker. He has set a goal of reaching 210 pounds before he steps on the field. If that doesn't happen, Vea said, he will consider redshirting.

NCAA rules prohibit college coaches from commenting on recruits before they sign a National Letter of Intent. For high school football players, National Signing Day -- the first day recruits can sign a letter of intent -- will take place on Feb. 2.

The Vandals enter this Saturday's road game against Utah State 1-4 in the WAC and 4-6 overall.

When asked what Ena told him about life at Idaho, Vea said the assistant coach mentioned cold weather. The school is in Moscow, Idaho, a town of approximately 23,000 people located near the Washington/Idaho border.

Five players on the Vandals' current roster -- senior linebacker JoJo Dickson (Baldwin, Maui), junior running back Kama Bailey (Damien, Oahu), junior linebacker Robert Siavii (Leilehua, Oahu), sophomore linebacker Conrad Scheidt (Kamehameha-Oahu) and freshman safety Chase Bell (Kamehameha-Maui) -- played high school football in Hawaii. That allows Vea the chance to connect with a small group of players immediately.

"You don't feel left out, like you're the only one from Hawaii,'' said Vea, who plans to visit the school on Dec. 10.

Vea, a three-year starter at strong safety, helped the Waveriders finish 10-2 and win their fifth Big Island Interscholastic Federation title in the past seven years. He turned in a senior season worthy of BIIF Player of the Year consideration, registering a team-high 85 total tackles (35 unassisted), eight tackles for losses, four fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and four interceptions.

He scored three touchdowns, returning two interceptions 50 yards for scores and running back a kickoff 89 yards for a TD.

In his junior season, he landed a spot on the All-BIIF Division I first team, piling up 49 total tackles, four fumble recoveries, three tackles for losses, two blocked punts and one forced fumble.

Vea first met Ena through Waveriders coach Gary Clark, and the senior thanked Clark for helping him gain exposure to college recruiters. He also expressed gratitude for the guidance he received from his parents, Pesi and Tevita, the football knowledge he gained from Waveriders defensive coordinator David Rapoza and the role Earlynn Trevino played in helping him prepare for college.

Vea said Trevino, the mother of Waveriders senior quarterback Dominick Trevino, helped distribute game film to various colleges and stressed the importance of academics.

The senior will leave Kealakehe with fond football memories.

"It was a pleasure to play with a bunch of great kids on the Kealakehe team,'' Vea said. "It was a nice season, and it was a pleasure to be coached by the Kealakehe coaches. I love them all and everybody who has supported the program.''

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