HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Former Kaiser offensive lineman Michael Eletise, the state's most highly recruited football player in 2015, credits the annual Gridiron Performance Academy (GPA) football camp with helping him land on the radars of nearly 50 NCAA college football coaches.
So does Saint Louis senior linebacker Isaac Slade-Matautia, perhaps the top defensive prospect in the class of 2017.
Starting on Friday, 550 of Hawaii's top high school football players will be given similar opportunities at the 2016 GPA College Showcase, held on the campus of U.H. Manoa.
"That's what the camp is about, is providing opportunities for a lot of these kids that don't get the chance to go up and get noticed," said Chad Ikei, a local strength and conditioning coach who helps organize the camp. "Some come from small schools, others financially can't afford to go to the mainland. It's for these kids to get a chance to go out and play college football, and a lot of them are fulfilling that dream."
As many as 80 football coaches from some of the country's top programs, including Alabama, USC, UCLA, BYU and Oregon, are slated to attend. The camp is recognized as a non-institutional event, which means coaches can't offer scholarships during the camp. Many, however, take the opportunity to coach Hawaii's best players in order to discover talented players that may not have yet been recruited.
"Last year, I went in with no offers," said Slade-Matautia. "I was trying to get myself out there. And then, maybe like a week after, two weeks after, I got my first three offers. This camp really helps athletes, especially in Hawaii."
Regardless of whether or not they're being heavily recruited, Ikei believes the opportunity to learn from some of the top coaches of the country is an invaluable experience for every football player in Hawaii.
"They're learning from some of the best college coaches in the nation, and they're competing against some of the best players in Hawaii," Ikei says. "So it's a lesson learned on both ends, a lesson to see where they're standing, and what they need to work on, and some of them realize they're just as good as the guys who already have scholarships."
The camp begins on Friday afternoon and runs through Sunday.