It’s no secret that the Mountain West is rife with talent from Polynesian upbringings, though perhaps it is still a surprise that the conference paced the FBS in entrants onto this year’s edition of the watch list put out annually by the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame.
The honor, which enters its third year of existence, is given to the athlete who demonstrates both outstanding on-field play and integrity. Christian Tago is arguably the headliner among those nominated from the MWC, after finishing second in the conference and 19th nationally in total tackles and adding nine tackles for loss in 2015. The senior has been at the center of the Spartan defense for three years and compiled 311 tackles in that time, quietly becoming one of the best linebackers in the West.
Utah State’s Ricky Ali’fua, Nevada’s Salesa Faraimo, UNLV’s Tau Lotulelei and Hawaii’s Jahvani Talai are the other defenders to be named to the watch list. Ali’fua garnered preseason all-conference recognition from the media yesterday, and he’ll be a linchpin in the reloading Aggies defense after making three sacks and 24 tackles last fall.
Faraimo is one of the next men up on the Wolf Pack’s defensive line, as well, after collecting four tackles for loss in 2015, while Lotulelei will look to help the Rebels defense take another step forward after making 70 tackles in ten games. Tavai is one of just nine sophomores to be named to the list, and he played in all 13 games for the Warriors last season while making 56 tackles.
Hawaii center Asotui Eli is the only offensive representative from the MWC, but he was a workhorse along the line. He allowed just four sacks as a redshirt freshman and is likely to be key to UH’s offensive development.
The award’s previous winners were former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota (2014) and former Notre Dame offensive lineman Ronnie Stanley (2015).