Thursday, September 1, 2022 | By Nick Abramo
You can’t just pick 6-foot-7 offensive linemen off of trees, but you can find them at your school after they transfer from Florida.
And what a bonus a certain 6-7 kid has been for the Campbell football team in 2022.
For sure, there’s more to it than blind luck. Senior tackle Isaac Maugaleoo, who played at Northside Christian in St. Petersburg, Florida, last year, has an uncle that is part of the storied history of Hawaii high school football who also happens to be the Sabers’ offensive line coach.
The uncle is Tai Utoafili, one of head coach Darren Johnson’s best friends. Utoafili played for Nanakuli’s 1983 OIA championship team that lost to Saint Louis 15-12 in the Oahu Prep Bowl. That game was the first of the Crusaders’ 14 de facto state championship titles in a 15-year span.
“I remember Isaac being so out of shape when he got here,” Johnson told ESPN Honolulu on Wednesday. “He’s gotten in shape and put the work in and is now at 290 pounds, down from 310. He passes the eyeball test and I’ve seen a lot of improvement and he’s just a quiet, do-it kind of kid.”
So far, Maugaleoo has one offer from a Division I FBS school — San Diego State. Johnson believes other offers will come, possibly from Hawaii.
“He really loves the islands so much and wants to stay here,” the coach added. “He’s the type of kid who is going to be there for five years. I see a lot of good in him and he has good study habits. Teachers have a lot of positive comments about him and he’s on a mission to make school a better place for himself. He wanted to come and play for his uncle and he wishes he did it sooner.”
When contacted by phone Thursday, Maugaleoo was in the middle of touring the school and taking photographs in his digital media class to learn more about the PhotoShop program, and he talked to ESPNHonolulu.com about how he may some day want to go into sports management.
Although he’s open to all potential college offers, Maugaleoo likes the idea of not having to go very far to play at that level, so for that reason, Hawaii is a fit.
For his senior year, Maugaleoo had a choice to move with his family to Denver, but opted for the islands instead.
In last week’s tough 35-34 loss to Mililani, Maugaleoo played right tackle, but he will be back to his normal left tackle spot on Saturday at home against Leilehua. He can play all five line positions.
“Coach Tai is teaching me a lot about footwork and technique and weight room technique and that’s making me a lot better than I already am,” said Maugaleoo, who was 6-4 in the eighth grade. “And I’ve learned a lot from teammates and my coaches who push me every day and are always on me 24-7. It’s not easy playing at this school. Practice is so much harder than an actual game.”
Maugaleoo has high expectations for the Campbell line as a unit.
“I feel very good about us,” he said. “We never stay the same and are always moving up, getting better every day.”
Other starters on the line are left guard Maomao Galuega, center Brandon Tuason, right guard Enos Atuaia, and right tackle Joshua Tavui.
“Before the Mililani game, the whole week we watched film on them and worked on blitz pickups and other things so that he (quarterback Jaron-Keawe Sagapolutele) doesn’t get touched,” added Maugaleoo about the line that gave up only one sack against the Trojans.
Asked about one thing he’ll always remember about playing for the Sabers so far in 2022, Maugaleeo took the time to commend a teammate.
“Our center (Tuason) is only a sophomore,” he said. “He’s so young, but he’s a leader and he’s really vocal and talks to our line and motivates us.”
As for the loss to the Trojans, Maugaleoo said, “Losing by one point is the worst feeling. I’d rather lose by 20. I know we are better than that.”
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