Then, a productive junior season with his 8-2-1 team, together with his increasing size and strength brought more attention and contacts from UCLA, USC, and Nebraska, among others. The process culminated last week with a scholarship offer from Cal that Leatiota eagerly accepted.
“I came up to Cal for their Junior Day and was really impressed by what I saw,” said Leatiota. "The school is close to home and I love the setting. I had a chance to see the campus and dorms and find out more about the academics and their academic support system. Cal has an excellent academic reputation and I like that (Leatiota has earned a 3.3 gpa and is due to take the SAT on May 9th).
“I spent a lot of time there that day and was one of the last ones to leave,” Leatiota continued. “I spent a lot of time with the coaching staff, especially with Coach (Ken) Delgado, Coach (Josh) Wilcox and Coach Tedford. I also had a chance to hang out with (DL) Abu (Ma’afala), Marshawn Lynch ('Man, he’s something else.') and some of the other players. Abu is from Hawaii, like a lot of my relatives, including two of my cousins who play for UH. There seems to be a strong Samoan community at Cal, and that’s cool, too.
“I was in Coach Tedford’s office with my aunt, uncle and cousin, and Coach Tedford told me they were really impressed with my game film, and in meeting me, and that they wanted to offer me a scholarship to play for Cal. I was really excited and jumped at the opportunity to play for a program like Cal and for Coach Tedford. I just had a big smile on my face.”
Leatiota enjoyed a productive season last year for the Wilcox Chargers, compiling 60 tackles (12 for a loss), 3 knockdowns, 2 forced fumbles, and one sack, despite being consistently double- and even triple-teamed. With his strength (375 max bench press, 28 reps of 185), Leatiota was regularly able to fight off blocks to put pressure on the QB.
“I don’t mind the doubles and triples. I love competition. I go up against James Strickland at tackle in practice and I’ve been working with him and some of the other linemen on technique. He’s getting pretty good and he’s almost my size, so that’s good practice for me. I play offensive tackle, too, so it’s good to work on both sides of the ball in practice.
“I’m open to play OL or DL at the next level. I think with my speed (4.85 40), I’m best suited to play defensive tackle, but if I get my speed up a little, I could play DE, too.”
When asked what he’s expecting this next high school season after becoming an early commit to a 10-2 Pac 10 team, Leatiota exclaimed, “Bring it on. I want people to feel me next year. I don’t want anyone coming away after playing me saying they beat a D-1 player. I want to make them remember me. I’m a hard worker and I’m very focused on what I need to do. Once game time rolls around, stay out of my way.”
When asked about his star lineman’s play, Wilcox Coach Woody Freitas had plenty of positives to offer.
"What can I say?” laughed Freitas. “Isaac’s big, strong and fast. He’s extremely quick for a player of his size and is usually first off the ball, which you don’t often see with a guy that big. He really gets out and moves.
"Isaac’s a great player for a program to have. He’s very self-motivated and works real hard. In the offseason, he’s been doing a lot of lifting and agility work, getting ready to take things to the next level. With Isaac’s intelligence and work ethic, he’ll be a real asset to the Cal program.”
Cal fans can now look forward to the arrival of Leatiota’s aggressive streak as Cal continues to add size, strength, and athleticism to its talented defensive line.
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