When Brian Polian returned to South Bend the Irish recruiting department received a major upgrade to its Hawaiian connections.
In 2009, Polian marked one of Notre Dame’s largest recruiting wins in program history, landing Manti Te’o from the Punahou School in Honolulu.
Now the ace recruiter has his eyes on a 2019 prospect from the same program, 6-foot-3, 220-pound linebacker Maninoa Tufono.
“I go to the same school that Manti went to,” Tufono said. “He was a great player and us Punahou kids, we look up to him. He gives us a role model and a guy we can look up to. He’s a famous guy around campus.”
As well as attending the alma mater of an Irish great, Tufono is related to an incoming Notre Dame freshman.
“Myron (Tagovailoa-Amosa) is my cousin,” Tufono said. “He loves Notre Dame. He always tells me about it and talks about it with me.”
During the spring evaluation period, Polian returned to Punahou to check out Tufono.
“I’ve got a lot of interest and mail from Notre Dame,” Tufono said. “(Polian) came down to campus. I was very excited. Notre Dame’s motto is how I live my life. I always want to put god first, my family comes second, and I do what I love which is play football.”
Scout lists Tufono as an outside linebacker, although he plays Mike linebacker at Punahou. College programs are recruiting him at both spots.
“I’ve been playing inside linebacker all my life,” Tufono said, “My dad played that position and later on when he played for the University of Washington. I’m mainly an inside backer but I’m versatile and play some outside and also play some running back for my school.”
Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho State, Nevada, Oregon, Syracuse and Washington State have offered.
Tufono also holds an offer from Dartmouth, a significant example of his hard work in the classroom.
“Punahou education is one of the best and prestigious in the nation,” Tufono said. “That’s one of the main things because you know you can’t go anywhere without the grades. My parents taught me well. It’s school before sports and that’s why we do it.”
Tufono should see his offer list grow this summer.
“I’m getting a lot of interest from Notre Dame, I’ve been getting some interest from Navy, Vanderbilt, Utah, USC, UCLA, Florida State, and Washington. Those are the main schools that are showing me interest right now.”
This summer, Tufono plans to camp at USC and UCLA while he’s visiting California for a family event.
Other than these camps, Tufono will wait to take official visits. He hopes Notre Dame will be one of his destinations.
“Notre Dame, oh man, I would love to get a visit up there,” Tufono said. “Financially, me and my family got to talk about that. But of course, I would love to check out Notre Dame. I don’t really have anything set for Notre Dame yet. But it would be a great opportunity to check out their prestigious campus.”
The chance to play on a college defense with his cousin is very appealing.
“That would be awesome if I could play with my family and know that I’m on the same side of the ball as Myron and have fun,” Tufono said.
At this stage Tufono is looking more toward his junior season than his recruitment.
“I’m really focused on putting my head down and working hard in the weight room, lifting and getting on the field, leading my team and leading us to a championship first,” Tufono said. “I’ll see what opportunities that God blesses me with to further my education. Decision-wise, I think I’m going to wait on that, pray on that, and see what happens.”