Monday, October 26, 2009

UH Gets Prep Linebacker: T.J. Taimatuia

The Warriors defied the odds by securing a commitment from a top California high school linebacker.

"I'm excited to go play for the green and black," said T.J. Taimatuia of Artesia High.

Taimatuia is 6 feet 4 and 225 pounds. He is capable of running 40 yards in 4.7 seconds, and squat-lifting 410 pounds.

Last season, he amassed 95 tackles and five sacks in nine regular-season games. He was named the Suburban League's 2008 Defensive Player of the Year. He also was selected to the CIF Southern Section all-star team.

But this year, Artesia has struggled, and a coaching change recently was made. Still, Taimatuia received strong interest from Arizona, California, UCLA, Utah and Washington.

But Taimatuia said it was an easy decision to pick his favorite college team.

"Ever since I was 9 or 10, I've watched Hawai'i," Taimatuia said. "I've always liked the way they've played and the way their coaches coach."

Taimatuia has several relatives living in Hawai'i.

Taimatuia's cousin is David Katina, a defensive end who plays for Fa'asao Marist High in American Samoa. Last month, Katina made a verbal commitment to play for the Warriors in 2010.

"I used to sleep over at his house," Taimatuia said. "I never thought that, years down the line, it would play out like this. I thank God for everything that's happened in my life. Every day, I work hard and thank the Lord. I give him all of the glory. I'm thankful for this opportunity to play for Hawai'i."

Taimatuia's parents still live in American Samoa. He stays with an aunt, Laurie Saleaeaga, in California.

"I miss the island life and the beach," Taimatuia said.

He said White Plains is his favorite beach.

As for hobbies, he said, "I'm Samoan. I love to eat."

Ryan Zerbel, Artesia's assistant principal and assistant football coach, praised Taimatuia as a student and athlete.

"He's a natural linebacker," Zerbel said. "He has a real nose for the ball. He has a tremendous natural talent. He's a great kid. He's hardworking, respectful. He'll be a good future player for the Warriors."

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