The Tuihalamaka Story

Since Mike Stoops was hired as the head coach of the Arizona Football program there has been a concerted effort to rebuild the Polynesian pipeline that it used to have. At the center of the rebuilding efforts has been Defensive Tackles coach Mike Tuiasosopo and in three years the pipeline is now back at Arizona and is only getting stronger.

This past weekend the Wildcats hosted a slew of players on official visits to Tucson and among the visitors were Bryson Beirne, Sione Tau, Savaii Eselu and Apaiata Tuihalamaka, all of whom are of Polynesian decent. Beirne has been committed to the Cats since June and Tau committed while on his visit only adding to the newly rebuilt and still proud Polynesian pipeline.

"I really liked my visit to U of A," Tuihalamaka told "I had been there before but I got a better chance to see all of the facilities and the campus and everything and I really liked it all a lot. The only bad thing was I was there on the holiday so I couldn't really get a great vibe about the campus life but it really was a good trip, I liked it a lot."

Apai was hosted by more than one current player on his visit, which is becoming the norm on official visits.

"I was hosted by Conan (Amituanai) and Nate Ness," he said. "They are both really good guys and they showed me a really good time. They took us to eat and they showed us around the campus and the city and they were good hosts. They showed me everything I wanted to see and they had a lot of good information about the program."

Some scouts see Apai as a defensive end at the college level and some see him as a linebacker. Arizona just happens to be recruiting him primarily for the SAM Linebacker spot and on the visit he got a chance to talk to Linebackers coach Tim Kish about what his role in the program might be.

"Coach Kish and I had a good long talk," he remarked. "He is a funny guy, he had me laughing but he knows when the right time to play is and he knows when it is time to be serious and when it is time to work. He told me where I would fit into their defense and where I would probably play. He is a real straight forward coach and I like what he had to tell me."

Throughout the recruiting process Apai has been able to build what he considers a really good relationship with his lead recruiter, Mike Tuiasosopo.

"Coach Tui is a great guy," he said. "We connected the first time we met. He has really helped me with different things, especially with what I need to do with my academics to get them in order. I know that he cares about me as a person and he wants me to succeed. I know that he cares about all of his players. I got to meet his wife and his kids and they are great people and he is a great family man. I feel really comfortable around him, it is like he is family and I know I can trust him."

Thursday night Apai was present with his cousin, four star JUCO linebacker Vuna Tuihalamaka, for an in home visit with Coach Tuiasosopo and head coach Mike Stoops and according to both Vuna and Apai, the visit went as good as an in home could go.

"I thought it went really good," Vuna said. "They offered me and I am really excited to have an offer from Arizona. They are my third offer with Oregon State and Iowa State. When they were here we talked about my official visit and I am going to visit on December 14th and after that I am going to visit Oregon State on the 16th."

Mike Tuiasosopo is also the lead recruiter for Vuna and, like Apai; he has great respect for the Arizona defensive tackle coach.

"Coach Tui is a really good guy," he said. "He is real honest and he cares about the guys, you can tell he is a good guy."

The two ‘Tuis' also share the same opinion of the Wildcats head coach.

"He is a real fired up coach," said Apai with a laugh. "He is full of energy and is real serious but he can be real funny too."

"Man he is a fiery coach," said Vuna. "He really knows defense and I know that U of A has a great defense that I would love to play for."

Both Apai and Vuna will be in Arizona over the Christmas break from school to train in the Phoenix area and according to Apai both will make another unofficial visit to Tucson to see the Arizona coaches again.

"We are supposed to go and train in Phoenix and we are going to go down there again," said Apai. "We went down for an unofficial this summer and it was nice and I really liked it last weekend and I know Vuna liked it there so we are going to go down again to see Coach Tui and everyone else."

Apai is set to visit Cal this weekend and Vuna and his El Camino College teammates are set to take on Bakersfield in the SoCal championship game with a trip to the State title game on the line. will keep in close contact with both Apai and Vuna as their recruitment unfolds.

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