Top Polynesian Players Of The Year

It might be the easiest election in the history of the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame. Granted, we are talking about an organization still in its infancy and with decades of voting to come, but Dec. 9 the Hall will name its inaugural College Football Player of the Year, and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is Samoan and on the ballot.

Done and done — perhaps.

Oregon Utah Football

Oregon Utah Football
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Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota sits on the bench in the second quarter during an NCAA college football game against Utah Nov. 8 in Salt Lake City AP PHOTO/RICK BOWMER

If the Hall’s seven-member selection committee has the coconuts to look beyond the easy and recognize excellence isn’t limited by position, it could produce a massive upset. To their credit, the committee members have done a good job selecting athletes based on merit and not just headline potential.

The five finalists were announced last week and include Mariota, UH punter, wide receiver and punt returner Scott Harding, University of Washington linebacker Hauoli Kikaha, Utah defensive end Nate Orchard and Arizona QB Anu Solomon.

Surely questions would arise if the Saint Louis graduate was named college football’s best player, but only the second or third best Polynesian, and that would be awesome.

Kikaha and Orchard haven’t a snowball’s chance in Pahoa of winning the Heisman, but either could win PFHOF’s top honor. Harding has been a rare bright spot in a terrible season, but this is a three-person race (one would suppose) and neither he nor Solomon has much of a chance. Solomon, only a freshman, could run away with it next year.

The selection committee is in a no-lose situation. A Mariota sweep of the voters only would confirm what we already know: The Duck QB is one of the top two or three players in the country regardless of genetic mutation.

As of press time (Nov. 21) the newest Throwing Samoan leads the country in passer rating and has completed 67 percent of his passes while tossing 29 touchdowns to only two interceptions. His team also is ranked second in the College Football Selection Committee rankings.

The guy is a stud and well deserving of any award, but he’s also a pretty boy. The darling of the offense and therefore the entire team. He’s the quarterback, the team leader. He eats the best seafood, sleeps in a hyperbaric chamber especially designed in Phil Knight’s underground laboratory, and only dates girls who’ve deemed Derek Jeter not quite good enough.

That’s why I’m pulling for the big guys, the wild Samoans — and I ain’t talking about Afa and Sika. (Although it would be cool if Kikaha and Orchard teamed up with Tonga Uliuli Fifita aka Meng or Haku to form a thoroughly badass three-man tag team that would even frighten the Usos, but I digress).

Just as there is nothing better than seeing a 300-pounder rumble slowly for a touch-down, there are few things more satisfying than an offensive or defensive lineman (excuse me, outside line-backer) getting their due. And both are worthy.

Kikaha (an outside line-backer of Samoan and Hawaiian descent) is tied for the FBS lead in sacks with 17, has 22.5 tackles for a loss (the nation’s best), 60 total tackles, two forced fumbles and was even named an Academic All-District winner.

Orchard, a defensive end for Utah, also has 17 sacks, 19 tackles for a loss and 73 total tackles. He, like Kikaha, is a semifinalist for the Lombardi and Bednarik awards, and set a Utah single-season sack record.

So should either defender ready his acceptance speech? No.

Mariota will win the award going away. Orchard and Kikaha will have to settle for NFL careers and finding comfort in the fact that they will soon be paid to beat up on guys like Mariota. Solomon will have to wait a year and likely battle Colorado QB Sefo Liufau for the top spot.

smurray@midweek.com