Tough Choice For Campbell’s Matautia
Campbell High School senior Solomon Matautia is the state’s eighth-ranked high school football prospect, according to Rivals.com.
The 6-foot-1-inch, 215-pound safety is unique among top high school talent in that, until recently, he never saw himself as a collegiate athlete. On the streets and parks near his Ewa Beach home, Matautia consistently was bested by his older, larger football-playing brothers. Since they did not have the chance to play college football, what hope did he have to move beyond high school?
That opinion started to change after an impressive junior season, which included returning a punt 80 yards for a touchdown against Kapolei, and a 100-yard interception return versus Mililani.
“I never thought any of this would happen to me. That’s why my grades weren’t the best,” says the confident yet shy teenager. “During my freshman and sophomore years, I didn’t think it was possible to play in college. When they (college coaches) started coming around, I knew I had to get serious.”
Being successful in the classroom came harder than athletic achievement, but he did it. Buckling down, he improved from a solid C student at the beginning of his junior year to pulling down three A’s by the end of the year.
“Being physical is easy, but getting good grades was stressful,” he admits. “Coach (Amosa Amosa) scheduled study sessions last year, but I did not participate. This year I will. It’s up to me now. If I can’t qualify, I will be disappointed because everyone is looking at me.”
Matautia chose Oregon State over University of Hawaii in June, in part because of his mother’s positive experience in the Pacific Northwest, and because of the school’s outstanding agricultural program. He didn’t even bother with a recruiting visit, though he expects to do so during an off week this year.
“Oregon State came around first, and they kept coming around,” he says. “When I talked to (OSU defensive coordinator) Mark Banker, it was not aways about football. I could talk to him about anything.”
Not from a farm family, Matautia discovered the joy of gardening and farming while attending Waipahu High School as a sophomore. Placed in the school’s agricultural program, he immediately took an interest in that area of study.
“They just threw me in the program and it was a lot of fun,” he says. “It’s all about aquaponics over there and that really caught my attention.”
Matautia took what he had learned and the seeds and plants he was given to rework the family yard with ti, tarot, pineapple, sunflowers — even installing new grass.
Going away to college was not an easy choice. His mother Shilene preferred OSU, but dad Benjamin, a longtime UH fan whose employer works closely with the university, hoped his son would stay home. Mom won.
“I got a huge stack of letters from UH and hand-written letters from every coach. Every time they came around they always treated me very good. It was a very hard decision.”
Even though he knew people would be disappointed if he didn’t stay home, the chance to experience life outside of Hawaii for only the second time in his life was just too much to pass up. Plus, the example of his two biggest role models also had an effect.
“Manti Teo and Marcus Mariota are role models. They did it, and it makes me think I can do it, too. Manti went to Notre Dame to make a difference and I think I can make a difference for Oregon State.”
Teo’s inspiration didn’t stop on the football field: “A real cool thing is Manti followed me on Instagram. That was pretty big for me.”
Matautia expects a good season for the Sabers, but new players on offense will make things challenging at the start. He won’t predict an OIA title but is confident.
Before heading off to college, Matautia will play in the Polynesian All American Game in California. He also may go to the Samoa Bowl
over the Christmas break.
Campbell begins the season ranked No. 7 in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser prep football poll.
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