At the inaugural U.S. Marine Corps Semper Fidel is All-American Bowl on January 3 in Phoenix, one young man stood out even before taking the field. Polynesian Moana Ofahengaue, with flowing locks reminiscent of NFL All-Pro Troy Polamalu’s, commanded attention.
Ofahengaue, a 6-foot-4-inch, 200-pound strong-side defensive end/outside linebacker from Saratoga Springs, Utah, was one of the 100 elite high school players from across the country chosen for the game for not only their football skills, but for being “athletes who embody the [Corps’] values of honor, courage and commitment.” Additionally, the selections committee, headed by esteemed pro recruiter and scout Tom Lemming, considered a player’s ability to immediately impact their chosen college program.
A senior at Westlake High in Saratoga Springs, Ofahengaue is one of the most highly recruited players in Utah, with powerhouse programs such as Michigan, Nebraska and Florida State reportedly offering him scholarships. He, however, has yet to declare what school he will attend this fall.
"They're all about equal right now. I'm not favoring anybody or leaning toward anyone,” he recently told Scout.com. Although academics is the biggest factor affecting his choice, Ofahengaue said, “Mostly I am just going to go off instinct, what the campus feels like when I am there and how I like it.” It’s his gridiron instincts that have NCAA coaches lining up to make their pitches.
Lemming notes that Ofahengaue possesses “superior pass rushing moves and technique. He anticipates the snap well and blazes off the ball showing a great burst and an uncanny knack of nabbing quarterbacks. Relentless in his pursuit of the ball carrier, he always seems to get extra attention from opponents.” And it’s not because of his hair.
Growing up, Ofahengaue got some help developing his game from an important source—his father. Tevita “T-Bone” Ofahengaue, a tight end at BYU, was drafted 246th overall in 2001 by the Arizona Cardinals, the last player picked, earning him the dubious distinction of being “Mr. Irrelevant.” T-Bone’s NFL experience, limited as it may have been, has proven invaluable. Lemming reports that Ofahengaue’s dad “taught him several moves and he uses them to his great advantage.”
Despite his credentials, Ofahengaue told Scout.com that no matter if he’s asked to redshirt or step in and contribute immediately, he’ll work hard each and every day. "I'm not too worried about playing time. I know if I'm not playing or seeing time on the field that it means I just need to work harder." With Marine drill instructors assisting coaches in the pre-Semper Fidelis game camp, discipline and effort weren’t going to be issues for any of the players in the bowl. Still, Ofahengue, who said he wanted to showcase his talent in this all-star game, impressed.
In an East versus West format, the defenses controlled the game. Ofahengue led the West, holding off a late charge by the East to secure a 17-14 victory. On February 1st, Ofahengaue will play in the International Bowl for the U.S. Under-19 National Team at the Palace at Round Rock in Austin, Texas. He was one of six defensive lineman selected for the team, from a pool of thousands throughout the country.
The next stop for Ofahengue? A major college squad. Quarterbacks beware.
For more info on this budding start, check out this article about him and his father here.
For some video highlights, check out this link here.