HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Unranked, uncommitted and undersized.
These are labels that Ryan Suliafu has carried throughout his football career, including this week of practices at the 2019 Polynesian Bowl. But that’s all these words really are - labels.
Those terms aren’t indicative of the way Suliafu plays. And instead of trying to convince people that they’re wrong about his skillset, Suliafu simply straps on his helmet, sticks his hand in the ground, bites down on his mouthpiece and showcases violence in the trenches.
“I’m not ranked,” Suliafu said after a dominant showing in one-on-ones this morning at Aloha Stadium. “I got to prove myself at this camp and try to catch more offers over here.”
The 6-foot-2, 285-pound Suliafu is being recruited as a pure center. The JSerra Catholic High School product out of California has left an impression on his Team Makai teammates, along with a few bumps and bruises.
“These guys are tough,” Suliafu said with a laugh. “I was really happy that I could compete with them.”
At the end of the day, that’s all Suliafu is looking to do: Compete.
To be able to compete on this stage is a blessing in itself. After not receiving much post-high school interest from other premier all-star games or school visits, Suliafu received an invite from the Polynesian Bowl.
“We were all super happy. I just never thought I’d be here. But I’m happy that I am,” he said.
This roster in this year’s Polynesian Bowl is load with four- and five-star recruits, many of whom are signed or verbally committed to schools across the Power-5 conferences. And while many of those players are simply enjoying being in Hawaii, this isn’t a vacation for Suliafu; this is a business trip.
Many of the 100 players in this year’s game haven’t been to the islands before. On the other hand, Suliafu has.
In fact, he was in attendance for the 2018 Polynesian Bowl as he watched one of his closest friends and current Rainbow Warrior lineman Solo Vaipulu play under the bright lights of Aloha Stadium.
“(Vaipulu) was here and I was able to watch him go through this,” he said. “It’s crazy being out here (at Aloha Stadium). I’ve always wanted to be out here.”
While unranked, Suliafu hasn’t completely flown under the radar. He has an offer on the table from New Mexico, although he hasn’t visited the campus. He has also visited Rhode Island on the East Coast.
But Suliafu isn’t playing in this year’s Polynesian Bowl to impress college scouts and coaches on the mainland. He’s specifically looking to impress the ones that roam the sidelines of Aloha Stadium on Saturdays in the fall.
“Hawaii is where I want to be,” Suliafu said. “I want to go to UH. Hopefully I do enough this week to get that chance to be a Warrior.”
Suliafu will have his opportunity to learn more about his Tongan culture and continue his playing career throughout the week before Saturday’s game at Aloha Stadium.
The 2019 Polynesian Bowl will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. H.T.