Mira Costa DL/FB J.R. Tavai had a dominant performance during the first-ever Polynesian All-American Classic on Saturday, but more than his impressive play, he was just proud to be involved with the start of something special.
“It is a once in a lifetime chance and we made the most of it,” Tavai said. “To meet all of these Polys here was a great experience. It was great to compete with them. It was just a lot of fun.”
On the field, Tavai caused havoc in the opposing backfield all afternoon. He finished the day with a quarterback sack, two tackles for loss, a forced fumble and he also recovered a fumble.
While it was hard not to be impressed with his tremendous effort, the humble playmaker known as the “Hulk” wasn’t ready to heap praise on himself.
When asked about his play, Tavai simply shrugged his shoulders and said he did “average.”
It was that type of “average” day that caught the eye of the USC coaching staff during Tavai’s senior season at Mira Costa High School.
The 6-2, 250-pound athlete played a number of different positions for the Mustangs and will get a look at defensive tackle and fullback at USC.
“They are going to give me a chance at both fullback and defensive tackle,” Tavai said. “I want to play defensive tackle because I like getting to the quarterback, so hopefully I can be better than those over there.”
Tavai committed to the Trojans back in December because of the combination of strong academics and an experienced coaching staff.
“First of all, they have great coaches and a degree from USC is real big, it can get you anywhere for a job interview and all of that,” he said. “Football-wise I will have coaches that have been in the NFL so I will get some NFL exposure and hopefully I make what I have been given great.”
He was recruited by defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and was drawn to Kiffin’s passion for the game.
“He may be over seventy or something but he still looks like he is in his prime,” said Tavai. “He is very excited about football and does it with his heart.”
J.R. Tavai was a dominant force on the defensive line on Saturday.
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