Rivals.com defensive tackles: No. 17
Rivals.com Hawaii top 20: No. 1
Kaniela Tuipulotu was prepared to check in his shoulder pads after his state playoff run ends. He never thought he'd get a chance to play another game. He also never thought he would be called an All-American.
Tuipulotu has been selected by Rivals.com to play in the inaugural Offense-Defense Bowl on Jan. 4 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Rivals.com is the official selection partners for the game that will be carried live on ESPNU.
Five facts about Kaniela Tuipulotu
• His second favorite sport is: Rugby.
• His favorite movie: Westside Story.
• His biggest sports dream: Playing in an All-America game like this.
• What he wants to accomplish in life: To be able to make enough money to let my parents retire early.
• Is coached by Reggie Torres.
"I was shocked," Tuipulotu said. "I was planning on packing it in after the last game and when we are done with the playoffs. But this is really a big honor, especially for a guy like me out here in Hawaii that not many people have heard of back on the Mainland.
"But it's an incredible feeling to be the only guy from Hawaii in the game and to be called an All-American."
Tuipulotu is a four-star player that is ranked as the top prospect in Hawaii. He said things didn't go as well as he hoped this season because he's been battling an ankle injury. However, he's now 100 percent and making some big plays in Kahuku's run through the state playoffs.
"My season has been below my expectations," he said. "The injury really slowed me early on, but I'm doing better in the playoffs and just starting to get into a postseason groove. I already have 15 tackles in the postseason. I'm starting to crank it up.
"I think I'll carry that momentum into this game. I will play hard for sure. That's how I do it. I just never give up. I play until the end when the whistle blows. I'll do whatever it takes to help the team win."
Tuipulotu said he is also excited about getting a chance to play on national television. With offers from Tennessee, Utah, Boise State, Arizona, BYU, Oregon State, Hawaii and others, he hopes that he shows those schools fans something special.
"I'm pretty equal at stopping the run and getting after the quarterback," Tuipulotu said. "I'm going to just do my best. The coaches at all the schools said they're going to be watching me, and that's really exciting, too."
Tuipulotu lists Tennessee, Boise State and Utah as his top three teams.
"Since I got the invitation, I've kind of slowed things down a little bit," Tuipulotu said. "I'm not real big on flying around all over the place, so I'll probably wait until after the game to take my visits. It's still the same, though. I really like Tennessee, Boise State and Utah."