Brandon Huffman

Trojans offer Semisi Lauaki a scholarship

Semisi Lauaki remains committed to Utah, but after USC offered the 6-foot-4, 240-pound three-star prospect a scholarship this week, he is now considering more than just a single college option.

Having worked on the New Horizons space probe, which was launched to study Pluto, Ed Russell knows plenty about the stars. By chance, or perhaps faith, Russell is now guiding a rising star in Hawthorne (Calif.) Leuzinger defensive end Semisi Lauaki.

Lauaki’s father and mother both passed away from cancer within a four year span. Attending the same church as the Lauaki family, Ed and his wife Lizette were compelled to help Semisi and his brothers.

As a physicist by trade, Ed became a tutor for the boys after school. But seeing that they needed more than just academic support in their lives, the couple became legal guardians of Semisi and four of his brothers in 2013.

Now the Russells find themself helping Semisi through another life-altering decision.

“He has a number of scholarship offers, but he has some favoritism toward USC and Utah,” said Russell. “He’ll probably be making a decision in the next two months.

“A lot of that will be based on graduation rates, and when he goes to visit the universities, what the dorms are like, what the food is like and what the morale is like on campus. He has to find out how he fits in.”

Lauaki attended the USC football camp in June, and from that point on, the Trojans' coaching staff has kept in contact him throughout the season.

“He was one of the best players at the camp, so we knew a scholarship offer would come, we just didn’t know when,” said Russell. “Since then, Semisi has continued to get his grades up.

“He received all A’s and one B last term, so he clearly has that in order. And his football performance on the field has been good. He’s a well-rounded young man.”

Lauaki remains committed to Utah, whom he publicly announced a pledge for in October. However, as Russell noted, Lauaki’s decision on where to attend college is not final.

“He is primarily committed to Utah, and he’s definitely still interested in them,” said Russell. “I think now that his top two choices have come in, it’s going to be a tough decision.

“If only one of them came in [with an offer] it would be an easier choice. Before USC came in, there really wasn’t a decision. Now a true decision must be made.”

USC is now under consideration for various reasons.

“It’s close to home and it’s definitely a premiere private school,” said Russell. “I think everything else is left to be understood.

“What’s the day to day living environment and dorm life like. He’ll be able to explore that when we visit the schools in December or early January. He still has to visit Utah formally as well.”

At the moment, USC is without a permanent head coach. While that issue will almost certainly be addressed before Lauaki makes a decision on college, it won’t be an overriding factor influencing in choosing a school.

“My opinion is that USC has always been able to attract high quality coaches,” said Russell. “I believe they will rectify the current situation.

“Obviously, if the current head coach wins out, he’ll show he’s got what it takes. If it’s close to winning out, then it will be determined if he remains in that role. Semisi likes Coach (Clay) Helton, so that is favorable for USC.”

At 6-foot-4, 240-pounds, Lauaki straddles the line between defensive end and outside linebacker. In USC’s current defensive scheme, that hybrid position is called the rush end.

“They’re looking at him as an outside linebacker, but he could play defensive end also,” said Russell. “He run about a 4.8 40-yard dash, and for a 235-pound high school kid, that’s pretty good.” Top Stories