When 2019 Honolulu (Hawaii) St. Louis School defensive lineman Faatui Tuitele came across to the mainland to participate in The Opening Los Angeles Regional, he wanted to represent for his home state and show that he and other Hawaiian players could compete alongside California’s top football players.
“It's hard to get exposure from the mainland because we're so isolated. So far away,” Tuitele said. “When we get these opportunities to come out here and showcase our talents, it's a real blessing.”
Tuitele took full advantage of the opportunity. He accomplished the rare feat of earning the camp’s defensive line position MVP as an underclassman. Tuitele showed an impressive burst through the line and an ability to play with his hands to beat offensive linemen in the one-on-one drills.
That skill set has many college football programs salivating over the thought of having a more mature Tuitele on their roster in two years. While on his trip, the 6-foot-3, 285-pound four star visited two of the schools that have been recruiting him the most — USC and UCLA.
Tuitele was complimentary of his trip to Westwood, but his eyes really lit up when he discussed the school across town. Visiting the USC campus on his 16th birthday, Tuitele said seeing what the Trojans had to offer made his birthday even more memorable.
“Oh man, USC was awesome. I loved it. The coaches were so welcoming. The coaches are so family-oriented as well. The coaches showed how much they wanted me at their campus and I guess that's what really stuck out to me. The coaches showed how much they wanted me.
“I felt the love and the warmth from USC. It was a nice campus, nice weather, a great football school, great academics. So much history, a rich history coming from USC and so many Polynesian greats has come from USC as well.
“Hopefully, one day, I'll be one of those greats.”
The Polynesian connection is an important factor in USC’s recruitment of Tuitele. Since Clay Helton has taken over, USC has brought in more than 10 players with Polynesian backgrounds.
That’s something that has caught the attention of Tuitele along with the family atmosphere and the brotherhood environment the Trojans are trying to foster. It would be a true family culture for Tuitele since his cousin Vavae Malepeai is a redshirt freshman on the Trojans’ roster. He also has a high school teammate on the team. Sophomore linebacker Jordan Iosefa played at St. Louis School with Tuitele.
“It's nice to see more Polynesian kids. At USC, it's going to feel even more family-oriented because we can easily relate to each other. We know what it's like to struggle, especially coming from Hawaii myself.”
Tuitele sees himself as a three-technique defensive end in the Trojans’ current system, which is similar to the position he plays in St. Louis’ 3-4 defense. That was something that was talked about on his unofficial visit.
“They really wanted to show me how I fit into their system, where I could play, the different techniques I play at St. Louis and how it fits into the USC system. It's awesome.”
The birthday trip was awesome enough for Tuitele to sport USC shorts and socks at the Nike camp later in the weekend.
“It's just that I loved USC a lot. I just wanted to [showcase it].”
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