When five-star linebacker Palaie Gaoteote transferred to Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman as a sophomore, he joined a defense that was already chock full of Division I talent.
But after having seven defensive players sign with Division I schools in February, the defense is officially Gaoteote’s. Previously, Gaoteote let the Gorman veterans do the talking in huddles and in the locker room. The only talking he did was on the field, both with his big hits and after when he let opponents know who had laid the lick.
Now stud defensive tackle Haskell Garrett is headed to Ohio State, fellow linebacker Farrell Hester is traveling down the street to UNLV and All-American safety Bubba Bolden is on his way down Interstate 15 to USC — where Gaoteote is verbally committed to join next year.
The Bishop Gorman team will now be looking to its 2018 star defender to lead the way.
“I came in my sophomore year,” Gaoteote said “I was able to learn how Haskell, Bubba, Farrell Hester carried themselves as leaders and how they carried themselves as football players.
“Just coming into the senior year definitely will help me off of experience and visualizing how they were handling the team and all of that. It's definitely going to help me in the long run anchoring the defense.”
The nation’s top linebacker and No. 4 overall player in the 2018 recruiting class led the Gaels with 68 tackles last season despite missing five games. He’ll try to help continue the school’s streak of 54 consecutive wins, eight straight Nevada state titles and winning three mythical national championships in a row.
Gaoteote also thinks the lessons learned from being more of a leader this season will help him when he gets to the next level. Being able to lead on the field is a trait he thinks will help him get on the field as a collegiate freshman.
“Coaches are always looking for leaders. They're always looking for ballers, but I think that leadership factor just puts everything on top,” Gaoteote said. “If you can get a guy that can put the team on his back and just be able to push the team harder than the coaches are pushing them, I think that's always going to be something better than just having a real athletic kid that can do everything.
“Having that leader on the defense just pushing the kids, I think that's what sets the greats from the average guys and I think that's what's going to help me my freshman year when I come in.”
Since committing to the Trojans while on an unofficial visit, Gaoteote has yet to return to campus. He was unable to make it Saturday when a number of recruits checked out a spring practice a day before attending The Opening Los Angeles Regional. Gaoteote only attended the camp, where he shined and earned himself an invite to The Opening Finals in Oregon later this summer.
Before making that trip, Gaoteote is hoping to return to Los Angeles to see USC during the spring. His hope is to attend the spring ball game, but he still has to get his parents’ approval.
“Right now not everything is clear because I haven't talked to my parents at all. I'm just kind of making up my own plans,” he said with a big smile, “but definitely I'll try to convince them.”
His parents might need some convincing about a trip, but his teammates know who the new leader of the defense is.
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