Ma'afala Returns from Seattle

Albert 'Abu' Ma'afala, a 6-2, 260-pound defensive tackle from Honolulu, Hawaii had a crazy weekend, one that took him from Hawaii to California to Washington and back. With all that travel, was he able to enjoy his official visit to <b>Washington</b> with teammate Brandon Ala?

First things were first, though. Ma'afala and Ala took part in an all-star game on Friday. "I just went into it with the mentality that this was going to be my last chance to play high school football, so I was going to give it everything I had and to have fun," Albert said.

He had fun to the tune of a 59-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown, leading to West Defensive MVP honors. "Well, It was a weak side option and I was coming of the edge in pursuit," he said, describing the play. "The outside backer hit the ball and I was able to pick it up and run it in."

The East squad was stacked with guys from Kauhuku and Saint Louis, like another Washington recruit, Jonathan Mapu. "I don't want to talk smack or anything but to be honest I was surprised," Albert said. "They really didn't play the way I expected them to play."

Then the weekend really took off. "Well, me and Brandon left in the third quarter and booked it to the airport and caught the last flight to San Francisco," he said. "It took us 7 hours to get to Seattle. Coach (Randy) Hart and Ikaika Malloe picked us up at the airport. We were late, so we didn't get a chance to eat breakfast with the rest of the recruits, so we got a bite to eat and then went to practice."

To say that Albert was impressed with the Huskies' practice would be an understatement. "The basic structure of the practices are the same as in high school, but they are really moving! The coaches are really intense and yelling encouragement. They aren't mad at all. It's like 'Good job, but this is how you can do it better.' Everybody out there is giving 110 percent."

He singled two players out in particular that he was already well familiar with. "J-Lo - wow," said Ma'afala. "We played Saint Louis in high school and he was really good back then but he's so much better now. He is such a competitor. And Willie (Kava). I actually played against Willie in high school and he's faster and stronger than I remember him. It just fired me up watching those guys play."

Ma'afala recounted an interesting story during the practice. "During conditioning they had one of their linemen (Jeremy Adams) kick," he said. "I think it was a 35-yarder. He had the aim, but not enough leg. So when he missed they had to do a half-gasser. Then they brought in their regular kicker (John Anderson)."

Rick Neuheisel earned praise from Ma'afala when he rounded up the team at the center of the field at the end of practice. "I thought it was great that Coach Neuheisel gave every coach a chance to get their coaching in at the end," he said. "And he was always giving a 'hurray!' after each coach talked. That just showed me how close he is to everything and what a great player's coach he is."

Albert also had a chance to talk to his position coach one-on-one. "Coach Hart told me about their personnel next year and we also watched some film. He would do little quizzes about what I would see and what I should do."

After practice, the recruits went to Jillians, and Albert got a kick out of checking out the Hawaii-BYU game there. "Yeah, me and Donny (Mateaki) and Brandon all said 'Put on the UH game," he said. "Man, we were shocked at that game. The island boys were getting rowdy in there." (laughs)

Albert's host was another Honolulu native, fullback Ken Walker. "You could tell he was an island boy," Ma'afala said with a big laugh. "He just kept telling me how much he loved it up there and how it was really like home. He really took care of me."

Perhaps the biggest difference-maker for Albert on his visit was on the academic side of things. "I was really impressed with the academics," he said. "I met the head of the staff that helps us and was just blown away. They just offer so much support for student-athletes and that's important to me because I'm not going to school just to play football. And their grad schools all seem to be in the top-20 and they told me that they would be able to help me get into a grad school if that's what I wanted. They just have so many connections with the faculty and professors."

But the highlight of Ma'afala's trip came with the simple things. "Well, after dinner we just hung out with our hosts and I just felt really at home," he said. "There were white guys, black guys, asian guys there, just like in Hawaii. It really felt like home."

Ma'afala's last talk with Rick Neuheisel was a brief one, but Albert got the message. "I had a quick talk with Coach Neuheisel, about 5 minutes," he said. "He just told me where I stood. There's a lot of bigger guys ahead of me, which is why it's so disappointing that I lost so much weight during the year. I want to get up to about 280 pound again."

With a scholarship only available if others go elsewhere, it's not deterring Albert just yet. "I'm going to play the waiting game," he said. "I liked Oregon, but I like Washington better. I'm going to wait a while to see what happens. I know Washington has their last big weekend this weekend, with guys like Manual Wright coming. I also know that they have lost a couple of players they wanted. I have offers from Washington State and Hawaii. I just may have to go to where I'm blessed instead of where I want to go, but that's OK. I'm not going to let a college education pass me by."

Oregon had an in-home visit tonight with the Ma'afala's ('It was alright') and Albert will be visited by Husky linebackers coach Tom Williams either tomorrow or Thursday. Top Stories