Technology got the better of Santa Ana (CA) Mater Dei defensive tackle Olive Sagapolu, causing his phone to break during his official visit to Madison last weekend.
When he finally was able to get it fixed and turn it on almost a week later, the newest Wisconsin commit had plenty of congratulatory text messages and voicemails he needed to respond to.
“I had a lot,” Sagapolu told BadgerNation. “I got a lot of messages from family from different parts of the world. When I went back to school, I got a lot of congratulations there from my friends.”
Committing was in the back of his mind for the 6-2, 305-pound Sagapolu (pronounced Oh-Leave-A Sag-A-Pool-Lou) on the trip. He had offers from Sacramento State and Washington State and picked up an offer from Kansas State while on his visit. He considered taking another trip before deciding, but his thought process began to change as the weekend wore on.
“I already had a list of things I wanted from a college and when I was out there at Wisconsin, they told me everything that I had on my list,” said Sagapolu. “I just got a great feeling with the whole coaching staff.”
Family is huge part of Sagapolu’s upbringing, as it is with many Polynesian players. It’s part of the reason why Sagapolu’s mother and grandparents came on the Madison trip and why Wisconsin stuck out to him because of the relationship defensive line coach Chad Kauha’aha’a and head coach Gary Andersen built with him since offering him in the summer.
“Over time our relationship has really grown well,” said Sagapolu. “While I was out there, they preached a lot about infusing the Polynesian culture in another side of the country where there are few (Polynesian) people. That was one of the reasons why I wanted to commit, so I could spread that Polynesian love to different people when they can learn more about my culture, where I come from and how we do things differently in my culture.”
Currently rated a three-star prospect and the No.41 defensive tackle in the country by Scout.com, Sagapolu listed Mater Dei teammate Kyle Penniston as another reason why he ultimately picked the Badgers. Known as one of UW’s biggest committed recruiters since pledging to the program in February, Penniston gave Sagapolu a lot of information about the Badgers and took his official visit with him.
“I mentioned to him a little bit what I wanted in a college and he told me that’s what they have out there, especially a really good atmosphere with Coach Andersen” Sagapolu said. “When we first got out there, I was really hesitant and I didn’t know what to do. As soon as I started meeting the coaches more, visiting the campus, talking to the academic staff, that’s when I knew it was the place to me.”
Sagapolu and Penniston arrived early Saturday for the visit and got to the stadium just after kickoff of Wisconsin’s eventual 52-7 win over Maryland. On his first visit to campus, Sagapolu recognized that the family atmosphere extended outside of the coaching offices.
“The one thing I took away from it was everybody was really welcoming,” he said. “Everybody was really kind. I heard some people say ‘Go Wisconsin’ or just a simple ‘hello.’ That’s something for me that’s heartwarming because you feel welcomed into another family. It’s nice to go to a college where they are going to welcome you with open arm. That’s what I got at Wisconsin.”
One of 22 players currently committed to Wisconsin in the 2015 recruiting class, Sagapolu, along with fellow defensive tackle Elu Aydon, have an opportunity to come in and play early with UW having lost two nose tackles last season and two more after this season.
“If I work hard in the weight room, push myself to my limit and just keep grinding, I believe I can help this team (next fall),” said Sagapolu.
Sagapolu is the fourth player with Polynesian roots to commit to Wisconsin since Andersen took over. In the last two years, Wisconsin has found those players in American Samoa (Aydon), California (Sagapolu), Hawaii (Micah Kapoi) and Utah (Ula Tolutau), and Sagapolu believes more Polynesian players will follow, especially with the caliber of football Wisconsin plays.
“Some Polynesian players are just afraid to get out there because there’s no one out there,” said Sagapolu. “While I was out there that was something I really thought about, spreading my Polynesian culture with other people and trying to influence other Polynesian to come out far away from home where they’ll still have coaches there that will support you and motivate you to keep pushing yourself.”