Mike Leach once said that going to Hawaii to recruit college football players is “one of the worst things ever.”
“You fly to Hawaii, fly in, look at it and it looks just spectacular and you see all the outstanding things people are doing there because it’s Hawaii,” Leach told the Spokesman-Review in 2019. “OK, but however, you’re leaving in 10 hours. So after being on a plane for five hours or more, over five hours, you’ll get your rental car, maybe go eat at the shrimp truck, maybe buy a shirt. So then you go do your home visit, you race to the airport and get on that plane and fly back.
“OK, here’s paradise, here’s what it looks like, it’s right outside your car window. Oh yeah, it would be fun to go in the ocean, it would be fun to hike up that. Yeah, screw you, you’re getting back on the plane, you’re going to sit where you started for another 5 1/2 , six hours. No, it’s brutal.”
Nebraska head coach Scott Frost had a much different experience with Husker defensive line coach Tony Tuioti before the coronavirus pandemic forced the NCAA to shut down recruiting completely in March.
In fact, he spent a good amount of time earlier this month answering a question about Nebraska’s lone February signee, four-star linebacker Wynden Ho’ohuli (Mililani, Oahu) by recounting a trip to the islands with Tuioti, who grew up partially in Laie, on Oahu’s north shore.
“He showed me where he lived and we drove through the neighborhood and everybody knew who he was,” Frost said. “We stopped at a place that looked like a gas station to get poke tuna and it was awesome. And some kind of breakfast pastry that I didn’t even know the name of that was unbelievable. I think we ate two dozen between the two of us.
“I jumped off a cliff into the ocean. Everybody knows him over there, so I think he’s going to be a big asset for us over there.”
The key, it seems, is to have the right guy along with you if you’re only going to be in town a short while.
Oh, yeah, and Frost said Nebraska was happy to land Ho’ohuli, the first high school player from Hawaii to sign with the Huskers since 1999.
“We were lucky enough to see Wynden on that trip when we were over and stayed in touch with him,” Frost said. “Tony did a good job. (Linebackers coaches Barrett Ruud and Mike Dawson and defensive coordinator Erik Chinander) all did a good job with him and he’s our kind of guy. We don’t care where they’re from.”
Frost also pointed to his history at past stops with players from Hawaii. NU has several offers out in the 2022 class to players from the state, including quarterback AJ Bianco at St. Louis High in Honolulu.
“Our staff’s history of recruiting in that state probably helps us a little bit when we go over there,” Frost said. “I’ve had pretty good luck with a couple of quarterbacks (Marcus Mariota and McKenzie Milton) from over there, from Saint Louis and Mililani.”
You can bet Frost will not have any of Leach’s reservations about making a return trip, no matter how short the stay.
“Only disappointment (with Ho’ohuli’s recruitment) was I didn’t get to go over and do a home visit with him, but he’s a good player and hopefully that opens a door for us,” Frost said.
Gabriel writes for the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star