Southern California powerhouse Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Santa Margarita Catholic was the No. 12 team in the state of California last year, and there was no more productive player for the Eagles than Malone Mataele.
The 6-foot, 176-pound four-star athlete tallied 45 carries for 245 yards and 5 touchdowns, 9 catches for 106 yards and one touchdown on offense; 711 kick return yards and 279 punt return yards on special teams, and 31 tackles, one quarterback hurry and 5 passes defended on defense. It was his first season at Santa Margarita Catholic, following a family move that took him out of Orange (Calif.) Orange Lutheran, where he spent two seasons.
Before receiving his scholarship offer from California last week, he had offers on the table from Arizona, Arizona State, BYU, Colorado, Purdue, Stanford, UCLA, Utah, Virginia, Colorado State, Hawaii and Washington State.
"I've been recruited by [Cal] since my sophomore year, when I was at my old school, Orange Lutheran," Mataele said. "Other than that, it's been on-and-off, recruiting, but these last couple weeks, they've been recruiting me pretty hard. I've been talking to coach Gerald Alexander, the most, I'd say. I got into contact with coach [Tony] Tuioti, too. Pretty much, this past week, I got that offer, got a chance to talk with coach [Justin] Wilcox, and he kind of broke down where I was with them, in the program, and he dropped that offer on me."
Mataele already knows several players on the team from Orange County, including the Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei contingent, as well as Buena Park (Calif.) product Jaylinn Hawkins, who he said he knows well. Mataele has yet to talk to Hawkins about the current staff.
Mataele has played both sides of the ball -- rather prolifically -- but his heart is on the offensive side of the ball. That's where his vision is best, coming out of the backfield to catch passes, in the slot, and on special teams.
"They saw me as an athlete," Mataele said. "Coach broke down to me that the opportunities for me are endless. It's pretty much on me, and how I work, going into college, that will determine where I end up, looking at offense and defense. They offered me as an athlete, gave me the opportunity to come in and play anywhere I want.
"I feel most at home on the offensive side of the ball, and special teams. I just feel like I'm a lot more natural at it. I've been doing it since first, second grade, in Pop Warner football, and now, it's just something that I'm working to sharpen my skills on, every day."
Mataele considers himself a running back and slot receiver, primarily, occasionally a wide out.
"I can take wildcat quarterback snaps, I can take handoffs, I can run routes from the backfield, run routes from the slot, at wide out," Mataele said.
Were he to be a defender, he would likely get in the mix as a cornerback.
"With Cal, they were saying they did their homework on me, based on my academics, and they've talked to a couple of my coaches, and they said that they saw what my coaches were telling them," Mataele. "My academics show that I'm a good kid. I take care of business, on and off the field. They felt they wouldn't have to worry about me screwing around or not taking care of business in the classroom, so I think that was a plus, finding out that I'm a good kid, that I have high character and high standards. That was a big plus for me. They told me that I'm a playmaker, that I can make plays, and make something out of nothing. That's what you're looking for."
Academically, Mataele has a 3.0 overall grade point average, and is getting ready to knock out his ACT and SAT this June.
"For me, the biggest thing right now is maintaining my core grades, and knocking out those test scores," Mataele said. "Being at Santa Margarita, it's a really tough academic institution, so I'm taking care of business, for my part. I'm doing my best. It's definitely not something that's easy, especially coming from my previous school. It was a big challenge for me towards the beginning of the year, but I'm tightening up everything and making sure I take care of business."
Mataele will make a visit to Berkeley "possibly soon," but he has to sit down with his parents to figure out the exact date, and to start formulating a top group.
"As of now, I'm not too sure [when that will come out], but time will tell," Mataele said. "It depends on how I get a good feel for these coaches and these programs out there. Any time soon, any time far, I'm not too sure."
What will go into that calculus?
"I'd say first and foremost, I'm looking for a program who's going to give me the most opportunity to play young, the program that just gives me a shot to showcase my ability as a freshman, that would be a school for me," Mataele said. "For me, I'm majoring in business, so finding a school that can give me a legit business degree, when football's over [is important]. Lastly, how I gel with their coaches. I want to make sure that coaches want me, and make sure that I have a good feel for the coaches, and see if I can gel with them on and off the field."
Haas School of Business, then, will play a big role.
"I did a little bit of research, recently, and I found out that they have one of the top business schools in the country," Mataele said.