Hawaii's 2016 football recruiting class has seven players from the either the Hawaiian Islands or American Samoa, where new head coach Nick Rolovich has made a recruiting priority for the program. One of those commits came as a surprise just over a week before National Signing Day - offensive lineman Josh Hauani'o of Honolulu (Hawaii) Iolani.
The coaching staff had made a run at three offensive linemen in Arizona, but ultimately put a full-court press on a local prospect. At the time, Hauani'o was teetering on accepting one of his offers or going the junior college route, but the Hawaii offer was one he had dreamt of.
“I had a couple offers on the table, but then I got offered by Hawaii,” Hauani'o explained. “I was kind of leaning toward the JuCo route because I didn’t have much D-I schools on my list initially. It came down to the last week. Coach Rolo and Coach Naeole showed interest in me early on. They offered me and I committed 24 hours later.”
He had one other FBS offer from Army, while his other offers included Delaware State, Western New Mexico, Arizona Western and Pima College.
“When it came down to it, being close to home was probably the biggest thing,” Hauani'o said. “Along with that, I had experience with the team in the 2007 season when they had their championship run. So I’ve grown up around UH sports and UH athletics.
“I’ve watched football a lot and I’ve always kind of dreamed of playing for my own home state team. The “Defending Pride Rock” thing also kind of got me going too.”
It had been nearly a decade since Hauani'o and Hawaii fans watched that Sugar Bowl run, but Rolovich was able to spark the hometown team spirit for the local offensive lineman and many abroad.
“Coach Rolo emphasized that for this class - He emphasized keeping the Hawaii boys and getting them to stay here would more represent the team in a better way, I felt,” Hauani'o said. “I can’t complain with that. I think that using island boys in the recruiting class for UH is the best representation of the state that we have for the team.
“Committing to the local school was a big deal to me. Knowing UH and UH athletics, definitely playing for my home state - it meant a lot to me. Watching them grow as a team, UH in general, watching them succeed and lose after a while. I’ve always dreamt of playing for my home state and representing my family also.”
For some recruits on official visits, a trip to Hawaii can seem like going to a different world, but it was just a short trip for Hauani'o. Though his official visit was nothing new for him personally, it gave him a new outlook seeing the reactions of other recruits on the trip.
“A lot of those guys were making comments about how beautiful Hawaii is,” Hauani'o said. “Taking the visit and listening to all them kind of opened my eyes about the state a little more. It wasn’t just the sight seeing, it was more about the college. Taking the official visit got me thinking about everything in a different perspective.”
The visit also gave him a chance to sit with Rolovich and talk X’s and O’s.
“He said I would basically be playing in the interior positions, center or guard,” Hauani'o said. “I could possibly play tackle sometimes, but they know my play style and they think that it would be the best position for me at guard.”
Hauani'o stands at 6-foot-4 and 300 lbs. He says he has a good combination of hard-nosed effort and technique to make him a future contributor at Hawaii.
“My strengths are, as an offensive lineman, at guard, I feel my strengths are pass block most likely and pulling. I’m good at finishing off plays too. I love pass blocking... Definitely expect some hard-nosed plays. I love to run the ball, love to pass, do pulls. Just good technical play overall.”
Make sure you check back Tuesday to see which future Hawaii Rainbow Warrior is featured next!
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