Faatui Tuitele (Kevin Carden)

Island Believer: ND offers next Hawaii star

Notre Dame is the newest offer for the next big name in Hawaii. Irish Illustrated caught up with defensive tackle Faatui Tuitele after Notre Dame returned to the islands.

Last week Irish assistant Brian Polian returned to a state that once netted Notre Dame one of the most historic recruiting wins in program history.

This time the veteran recruiter stopped by the St. Louis School in Honolulu, an all-boys Catholic private school, to check on one of the nation's top '19 recruits, Faatui Tuitele.

"Coach Polian came by my school," Tuitele said. "He can't really talk to me because I'm a sophomore but he got a hold of my coach, Cal Lee and told him to call me. I called coach Polian and that's when he offered me."

Notre Dame represents his 14th offer. BYU, Fresno State, Hawaii, Ole Miss, Nevada, Oregon, Stanford, Syracuse, UCLA, USC, Utah, Vanderbilt and Washington round out his list.

Tuitele got up to speed on Notre Dame's success with Hawaiian Polynesian athletes in the past.

"Coach Brian Polian told me how he recruited Manti Te'o, Robby Toma, Kona Schwenke and Myron (Tagovailoa-Amosa) and that comforts me, knowing that he knows how us Hawaii kids think and do," Tuitele said. "He is very interested in what Hawaii has to offer. That's a really big eye-opener for me that he cares about us Hawaii players because not many colleges care about what the island has to offer. Coach Polian is taking his time and seeing what each Hawaii player can do and that's a really big help for me."

Tuitele has been given strong support from his hard-working parents. The 6-foot-4, 280-pound sophomore repays them with hard work of his own, on and off the field.

"I finished my first semester with a 4.0," Tuitele said. "This quarter, I'm going to finish with another 4.0. I've been really focused lately. I'm really taking school seriously because I go to a Catholic private school and my parents have paid $15,000 (per) year. That's not easy money that we can just pull out of a tree or anything like that. My parents had to work for that money, so I want to make the most of their hard work and repay them with my own hard work with school and football."

St. Louis School has been serving Tuitele well. The strong principle taught within the school bands the football team together closely.

"It's a really good school," Tuitele said. "The teachers, they really want us to be successful and that's what intrigues me. At St. Louis, we emphasize one word. We emphasize 'brotherhood' at our school.  Everybody is so close, we're all like family over here. It's a really great private school."

Notre Dame and St. Louis School have common bonds.

"Since I go to a private, catholic school already, Notre Dame is also a private school so it wouldn't be completely new to me and they have procedures that other catholic private schools go through. I'd be used to it already."

Tuitele's road to stardom hasn't always been a smooth one. Football helped him navigate it.

"Where I grew up in Hawaii, there was gangs and I grew up in the ghetto part of Hawaii, where people don't know much about it because Hawaii doesn't really show this part," Tuitele said. "I was growing up in Mayor Wrights Housing and the atmosphere was just negative. There was a lot of gangs and violence surrounding me. I was playing football at the time because football kept me out of trouble and it kept me busy.

"That's where I fell in love with football and I started playing organized football in sixth-grade in the 'big boys' league and I've been playing football ever since."

A family influence has provided Tuitele with a strong role model and college football reference to help guide him to the next level.

"My uncle. Chris Fuamatu Ma-afala, he played for Utah," Tuitele said. "He went to St. Louis School too in the 1990's. He also grew up in Mayor Wright Housing, so I kind of look up to him because he made it out of the hood where I grew up as well."

If it wasn't for football, Tuitele isn't quite sure if his life would be a positive one.

"Football has always been an escape from reality for me," Tuitele said. "Football has always been a stress reliever. It's a sport where you can hit somebody and not be arrested."

With his sophomore year coming to an end, Tuitele and his family are looking forward to visiting college campuses this summer.

"My family and I are trying to visit more of the west coast schools over the summer," Tuitele said. "Maybe Washington, Oregon, we haven't decided yet. As for Notre Dame, we're probably going to visit Notre Dame in my junior year, after my junior season."

Given Tuitele's recruitment is only beginning, a top list or decision timeline isn't something he has put thought to.

"I don't have a top school or anything yet," Tuitele said. "I'm just trying to work hard and keep my options open and learn a bit more about each school so I can have a complete decision. I want to represent my home and my family and Hawaii as well."

"I'm going to take my time with this process and get to know each school more. I want to make my decision wisely and find out where I want to be and be sure about it."

Tuitele led his defense to a 30-14 Hawaii State Championship win over Kahuku last season. He posted 11 tackles, one sack and one forced fumble in the win.

He finished his sophomore season with 39 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, eight sacks, one forced fumble and 10 ball bat downs.



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