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Molokai’s Seumalo commits to Kansas State

Vaai “Uso” Seumalo is the first NCAA Division I scholarship football player ever to have played for the Molokai High School program. Shrimplin Photography ADAM SHRIMPLIN photos

The remarkable football journey Vaai “Uso” Seumalo has been on for just a little more than two years took another monumental step on Monday.

Seumalo’s football career consisted of just six games as a Molokai High School senior in 2019 — four of them in the eight-player ranks — until he found his way to Garden City (Kan.) Community College in July 2020 with the help of Oahu recruiting expert Doris Sullivan.

On Monday, Seumalo announced his verbal commitment to accept a football scholarship from Kansas State University. He plans to sign on the traditional signing day in February and finish his associate degree in May.

He is the first NCAA Division I scholarship football player ever to have played for the Molokai program.

“It feels amazing, it’s a blessing and an honor to be able to play at Kansas State University,” Seumalo said via phone on Tuesday. “It just felt like a burden being lifted. I don’t know, it was hard making the decision because of the other schools I had, but I was able to talk with my family and we kind of settled down to one school and Kansas State was it.”

Vaai “Uso” Seumalo has 16.5 tackles for loss in 10 games this season.

Kimo von Oelhoffen is a Molokai High School graduate who played one season at Moanalua High School before playing collegiately at Hawaii, Walla Walla (Wash.) Community College and Boise State before a 14-year career in the NFL ended in 2007.

It is Seumalo, however, who is paving this never-before-traveled path for the current Farmers. Kansas State has been after Seumalo, a 6-foot-4, 325-pound defensive lineman, from virtually the moment he arrived in Kansas.

The BroncBusters still have a bowl game to play and Seumalo has been busy with football since playing in the spring this year after the 2020 season was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 10-game fall regular season ended with a loss in the conference championship game on Sunday.

K-State defensive line coach Mike Tuiasosopo has been the main recruiter for Seumalo, who turned down offers from UNLV, Jacksonville State, Akron and Incarnate Word to commit to the Wildcats.

“I was finally able to go up there and see him, go up and do a little workout with the coaches and I guess they like what they saw and I was blessed with an offer,” Seumalo said. “Honestly, just the people there, the coaches, the environment up there, it really felt like they were like a family.

“I want to be in a place that I will be comfortable in and will also get me better at the sport because I’m still learning. They will get me right.”

Seumalo is touched to be the first football scholarship player out of the Molokai program. The team was revived, after more than 60 years dormant, in 2012 as part of the Maui Interscholastic League eight-player ranks.

Despite his size — he left the Friendly Isle at 6-4, 290 — his parents would not let him play football until his cajoling finally worked just prior to his senior year.

“Words cannot even explain, really,” Seumalo said. “For me, I just thank God for all he’s done for me, for giving me this opportunity because he really brought me here this whole way. … All these opportunities, all these doors he’s opened for me, it’s just crazy.”

Due to a free COVID year, Seumalo will have four seasons to play three for the Wildcats after he graduates from Garden City in the spring.

He has 19 tackles, three sacks and an eye-popping 16.5 tackles for loss in 10 games this season as an interior defensive lineman. He had 28 tackles, 7.5 TFLs and two sacks in the eight-game spring season.

“I’m thankful, as much as thankful can get,” Seumalo said of the folks at Garden City. “They really helped me. The coaches out here, they taught me the basics and they are still trying to help me out. It’s not done until I get there. I’m really thankful for my coaches out here, my teammates and everybody.”

Moments before saying all that, Seumalo said: “I have a lot to learn. Yeah, a lot to learn.”

Molokai coach Mike Kahale, a teacher at the island’s intermediate school, has seen potential in Seumalo since he saw the large, athletic young man who played basketball and volleyball in high school prior to his single season of football.

“It’s huge for our program,” Kahale said. “We’ve been at this for about a decade now and we’ve had some really good athletes come out of our program and Uso having only played one year says a lot about his potential and his athleticism. It adds some legitimacy to what we’re doing here on Molokai in developing a football program. … It’s a big deal.”

Seumalo plans to study business management at K-State with hopes of helping on the family farm on Molokai after graduating.

“Just helping my family, my parents and their friend, they started a farm — all through high school I was always working on the farm,” he said.

Before all of that, he has something else in mind — the NFL.

“Most definitely, that’s my top goal right there, to get to the NFL and play there, for as long as I can,” Seumalo said.

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

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