After starting the year as a 0-star recruit, Haunga finally earns his scholarship

Updated: Feb. 7, 2019 at 11:50 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - All Siotame Haunga wanted was an opportunity to compete.

Zero stars, undersized and a student at a school that is closing its doors to high school students this summer, the Saint Francis senior was the ultimate underdog story in Hawaii prep football this season.

According to the composite rankings compiled by recruiting powerhouse 247Sports, Haunga … doesn’t actually even have a ranking. He’s officially listed as “non-applicable” by the site.

A 17-year-old soft-spoken offensive guard, Haunga quietly put the work in on and off the field during his senior season, hoping to catch the eye of a Division I school. Haunga never let the recruiting process get him down, even as he was listed as the 3,012th prospect in the country by 247Sports.

But none of that mattered Wednesday morning, when Haunga’s dream came true – and he signed his letter of intent to play college football for Dixie State.

“I accomplished a lot,” said a near-speechless Haunga after signing. “Just for my family, too, it’s amazing. This is a big blessing for me. And that’s just about it.”

Haunga likely would’ve flown under the radar at the National Letter of Intent signing ceremony had it not been for an email to the Hawaii News Now sports department.

“Siotame Haunga playing for Team Mauka (in the Polynesian Bowl),” the email read. “Undersized and underestimated. Played for Saint Francis and season was (forfeited). You know the story … not one DI offer. Someone from the Polynesian Bowl committee felt like he could compete with these 4-5 star D-linemen for one last time.”

“He has a chance to leave with something this week,” the email continued. “Depending on whose eyes he catches. He is risking it all ... someone who came in with nothing, might just leave with it all.”

Scouting Haunga in high school was a difficult enough task for college recruiters, but at Polynesian Bowl practices, it was even harder. Haunga’s name was not a very well-known one amongst coaches and players on the first day of pads.

Lined up alongside 99 of the country’s best high school football players, wearing helmets and practice bibs on that didn’t have numbers on them, it was like finding a needle in a haystack.

But as the week rolled along, Haunga eventually became hard to miss, turning heads in one-on-one drills against defensive lineman.

A high school senior whose humility struck a chord with Team Mauka’s coaching staff and players during bowl week, Haunga approached the all-star exhibition game with one thing on his mind – landing a scholarship.

After an impressive performance, Haunga had serious interest from two schools immediately following the Polynesian Bowl. One was Division II’s Adams State. The other? Dixie State.

A week later, Haunga landed the offer from the Trailblazers, which Haunga says is expected to become a Division I school in 2020.

When asked what his future school saw in him that resulted in a scholarship offer, Huanga shrugged and smiled.

“They said I did really good for a guy with no stars,” he said.

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