Four Star LB Has ASU in Top Five

Despite the fact that he has quite a bit of family in the Phoenix area, the first time Apaiata Tuihalamaka visited Tempe was during the ASU team camp last week. First impressions are sometimes the most important ones in the recruiting process. When Devils Digest spoke to the Serra High School linebacker, it was easy to realize how much he enjoyed his experience in Sun Devil country.

"I liked the ASU camp," said the 6-3 220 Apaiata Tuihalamaka. "I had good one-on-one drills and I was coached well by Coach Jackson and Coach Fidler. All of them are great coaches and showed me a lot of love. I went to Mill Avenue and had a good time there. I really liked the campus, the light rail train they're building there…the whole environment was great. I can get used to the weather, and I don't like rain anyway (laughs)."

For many years, Serra High School in Gardena, Calif. has been known to produce many quality Pac-10 players. Thus, it's not uncommon for someone like Tuihalamaka to be discovered while schools are scouting the several blue chippers the team usually boasts. "ASU came to scout our running back," recalled Tuihalamaka, "and they saw me then and said they liked my motor. They were interested in me right away. They were actually were the first ones to offer me." He added that the ASU offer came in April of this year.

Other schools didn't lag much behind. Pac-10 foes Oregon, UCLA, Arizona, California, and Washington have already extended their scholarship offers, while national powerhouses such as Miami have thrown their name in the hat as well. "I keep all the schools that contacted me in mind," he remarked. "I didn't narrow down my list yet, but I know that Arizona State is definitely in my top five."

Tuihalamaka played defensive end and running back for Serra, but is being recruited as a linebacker by the Sun Devils. In 2005 he collected 508 yards on 67 carries and three touchdowns. On defense he tallied 58 tackles on defense and 6.5 sacks. "I tell the coaches that I'll play any position," he commented. "Where I can come in and make some damage immediately, that's where I want to play. Just tell me where to sign and I'll come over (laughs)."

Tuihalamaka is an avid rugby player, and admitted that the sport has affected his running style. "When I run, I run wild and the ball is all over the place," he explained. "The physical part of football is similar to rugby, so that makes it easy. In both sports you stiff arm and stuff like that. I can get faster if I wanted to. On defense, I can chase people down, but I need to learn the mental part of the game better. Once I get that down, I'll play more confident and just run out there and take people's heads off (smile)."

The linebacker is actually going to return to Phoenix this week, to work out with his cousin who's a local personal trainer (another cousin of his is former Mesa High School and USC standout, Deuce Lutui, who was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals.). Tuihalamaka said that he plans to visit ASU once again during that period, and may venture to Tucson to check out the Wildcats. "I already been to the local schools like USC and UCLA," he stated, "I'm planning to go to Miami, Cal, Washington, San Diego…I just want to visit as many schools as possible, so when I do make a list of my five official visits, I can make a good choice. I want to get a good feel for all the schools on my list." The linebacker a has a 3.2 GPA and is awaiting his test score.

There are some unknowns concerning his recruitment, but one aspect has already been decided and engraved in stone. "I already made my choice of when I will make my decision – it's January 4th, because it's my birthday (laughs)," he said. "That's a good time to make a decision – it's towards the end of the recruiting season."

And schools will exercise patience, because Apaiata Tuihalamaka is surely worth the wait.

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