This last week in particular was one of the toughest for Ka'ai, as the week began with many of Ka'ai's suitors making the in-home trip to Hawaii, and ended with the senior four-star defensive end having to tell several coaches no.
"Well almost every coach in my top-five came down this past week," he explained. "For awhile, I'd been leaning toward Oregon. When my brother was recruited back in high school, he was recruited by Oregon. Though he didn't end up going there, I knew a lot coming in. My brother is in Tacoma, four hours away, so I have family up there relatively close by. I just felt Oregon was the best fit for me."
While Ka'ai was an Oregon lean for awhile, he wasn't a Duck commit until recently, when the Duck staff pressed its advantage with a time-honored recruiting tactic in a Wednesday visit with Ka'ai.
"Well Coach Aliotti, the defensive coordinator, his first trip off campus to recruit was to come down here, so that I was one of the first people he saw impressed me. He told me straight up, we have three DL visiting this weekend, and that they had three spots left, so if all three committed, they'd have to accept those commitments. They told me they wanted me to have the first crack at it. They said if I commit, then they'll cancel another player's visit and honor my commitment, so I talked with my family, and we just figured Oregon was the best place for me to go."
"I called Oregon Thursday night to commit. I thought about it Wednesday and Thursday morning, and I when came home, I made the decision to call and decide I wanted to be a Duck."
As Ka'ai mentioned, most of his candidate programs' coaches made one final push to land him, and Ka'ai reports new Stanford coach David Shaw was in that group.
"The Stanford visit was good," Ka'ai said. "I got to know the program better and meet with Coach Shaw. At first, it was a concern Harbaugh left, but after meeting Coach Shaw, not so much. I figured that program was in good hands, and Harbaugh's departure was not that big of a factor."
Still though, Ka'ai said that he's solid to Oregon, and if he hadn't signed with Oregon, second place wasn't going to be Stanford.
""If it wasn't Oregon, I probably would have signed with Nebraska," he said. "But I'm a commit. I called the other schools to thank them for the opportunity they presented, but I'm going to go to Oregon."
Ultimately, the Polynesian angle, the family angle and, of course, seeing Oregon in the national title game all helped turn Ka'ai Oregon green (and yellow, and white, and black, and…).
" I think they're a program on the rise. They return a bunch of key aspects of their team, and seeing how hard they played in the national championship made me want to be a Duck.
"The opportunity to play was there, but that's true everywhere, you just have to work hard. They play the best people on the team; they don't care what grade you are. And then the Polynesian community, I think a big part in deciding was finding Polynesian kids, and there are some Polynesians up there, so I think I'll be real comfortable. Both the school has a bunch of students from Hawaii, and then the football team is pretty well-populated too."
The Bootleg wishes Ka'ai the best in the years to come. Stay tuned for more breaking recruiting news as National Signing Day nears.
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