Depending on how events unfold in Florida, Taniela Tupou’s letter could be the first that comes crackling through Steve Sarkisian’s fax machine come Wednesday.
The defensive lineman from Archbishop Murphy (pictured in an Ellen M. Banner photo) leaves on Friday to play in the Team USA vs. The World game, which will be held in Austin, Texas on Wednesday.
Letters-of-intent can be signed at 7 a.m. local time, and Tupou says it has been set up for a number of players to gather early and put pen to paper and fax them in.
“It’ll be totally fun,” says Tupou, who was one of five Seattle Times Blue Chip selections this year, all of whom have committed to UW.
Tupou was the first of that quintet, giving the nod in April, drawn by the lure of playing close to home and an emerging UW program.
To answer a couple quick questions first, Tupou says he hasn’t decided when or if he will take a church mission. What he said is definite is that he will be a Husky in the fall of 2011.
“As of right now I’m just going to play it by ear and see how this season goes,” he said, saying there’s a chance he takes one after the first season, later, or never during his college career.
He also said he doesn’t think he’ll have any trouble being eligible, though he admits there was a little bit of cause for concern.
“At one point I was struggling with a few classes and it was kind of iffy,” he said. “I think I finished last semester with a 3.0 GPA so I’m pretty sure I should be fine. All I know is that for this next semester there is no taking any breaks. People say ‘oh, coast your last year, your last semester as a senior.’ But for me I’ve got to work harder and get better grades. As of right now, I know I’m eligible as far as the Clearinghouse. But I just need to get better grades to raise my core. My test score is fine, I’m just trying to get my core up. I don’t want any last-minute things to slip up and just want to seal the deal.”
Tupou was chosen to play in the USA-World game in December and said he’s excited not only for the honor but also “to be on a team with all these guys and compete with them and see what I’ll be up against the next four years.”
Tupou said he weighs 270 pounds, and said he thinks he’ll be used at both end and tackle in the all-star game.
He could also end up at either spot for the Huskies, which he said is fine with him.
“(They say) I’m big enough to play inside and fast enough to play outside, so I’m fine with wherever they put me as long as I can play and support the team in any way,” he said.
Being one of UW’s earliest commitments meant Tupou has had lots of time to wait to sign his letter. But he says that while a number of schools called to make sure he was set in his decision — he listed Boise State, Utah, Washington State, Oregon and Oregon State and said that BYU “tried to make a big run at me,” — he said he never wavered.
“I just told those schools ‘hey thanks, but UW is where I want to be,” he said. “I want to be able to stay close to my family and be able to play in front of my family and friends and this is the place I belong and what I want to do.”