By Rodney S. Yap
Former University of Hawaii Warrior Kaniela Tuipulotu will get his chance to showcase his skills to NFL scouts at the upcoming 2012 East-West Shrine Game later this month and then at the Athletes’ Performance facility in the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. on March 5.
Tuipulotu, an All-WAC Conference Second Team defensive lineman, is from Lahaina. He started his prep football career at Lahainaluna High School before transferring to Kahuku his sophomore season.
The 6-foot-2, 300-pound Tuipulotu was a two-year starter with the Warriors and named the team’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player in 2010.
It was Tuipulotu’s desire to be closer to home that led to his transfer from Arizona in 2009. Since his arrival to Manoa, the academic all-WAC performer who graduated in December with a degree in sociology, played in 27 games and finished with 66 career tackles. Out of high school he was considered one of the highest rated recruits in the state.
Joining Tuipulotu at the 2012 East-West Shrine Game will be teammate Vaughn Meatoga, a senior from Kalaheo, Kaua’i. The pair proved to be a formidable frontline for the Warrior defense as Meatoga started nearly every game since his sophomore season.
The East-West Shrine Game is the longest-running college all-star football game in the country and features some of the highest-rated players in the projected NFL draft ranking. While the teams are divided by East and West, the players come together for the beneficiary of the event, Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Former Minnesota Vikings head man Brad Childress will coach of the West Team on Jan. 21. Bobby Ross, who is perhaps most remembered for coaching the San Diego Chargers, is the head coach of the East Team.
If there is one place NFL coaches and scouts can find new talent to fill their rosters, it is the East-West Shrine Game.
The players from the 2011 East-West Shrine Game class are proving to be one of the more talented classes in recent years. Of those 100 players, 52 are on NFL rosters and 18 are on practice squads. This means that an astounding 80% of the players from last year’s game have moved on to the NFL.
East-West Shrine Game Director Harold Richardson draws from his 25 years of coaching experience in the NFL and college level to attract top players, NFL scouts and coaches to the annual game.
“The East-West Shrine Game is making a statement – that we are and will continue to be one of the premier places to find NFL talent,” said Richardson. “The success of these players is also a testament to their character and how hard they have worked to achieve careers in the NFL.”
Meatoga will join Tuipulotu in Carson City, Calif. on March 5 as well. Agents Kenny Zuckerman and Michael Hoffman were instrumental in arranging the showcase for their UH clients, which also includes Aaron Brown. The players will work out for NFL scouts as Draft-eligible Warriors who played in 2011 will be the only athletes allowed to participate.
Because of the head coaching change at UH, it is not known if there will be a separate UH Pro Day, which used to be held a few weeks before the NFL draft, also at the Home Depot Center.