HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Former Mililani Trojan and current USC Trojan, Vavae Malepeai was named to the 2020 Doak Walker award player watchlist on Wednesday. Awarded to the top running back in college football.
“It is an honor to be on the watchlist,” Malepeai told Hawaii News Now. “I know there are a lot of things going on behind the scenes that have gotten me to this point, like the people that I’ve played with, so of course I wouldn’t be here without the coaches I’ve had and players blocking for me and stuff like that.”
This award is given to the player based on their performance on and off the field, the list gives the public an idea of who they are going to be watching this season — if there's even a season to be played this year.
With the uncertainty of the ongoing pandemic, the idea of a college football season is in flux, but Malepeai is attacking this off season like he would any other.
“Nothing changes, i’m still going to prepare like i have a game this week,” Malepeai said. “I’m still going to put my all into getting healthy and so are a lot of people around the country, so nothing changes, I’ve just got to keep working.”
The Pac-12 conference — which USC is a member of — announced earlier this week that all of their fall sports will play a conference-only schedule in 2020, canceling primetime games against Alabama and Notre Dame.
The NCAA also announced today new guidelines for the upcoming season, giving a sliver of hope for college football in 2020.
Also adding to the small amount of good news, the 2015 Gatorade Hawaii Player of the Year said that USC’s athletic director is trying to salvage their lost games.
“Our (Athletic Director) put out an announcement saying basically, they’re going to try to make those games happen with Bama and Notre Dame,” Malepeai said. “But at this point, like I mentioned earlier, nothing is going to change, and the fact that we’re still going to be working hard as a team, were still going to try to get better and prepared mentally for whoever it is, so were just trying to be ready for when the time does come.”
In the meantime, Malepeai says that the University has done a commendable job at maintaining the health and safety for those on campus.
“The university is for sure doing their best,” Malepeai said. “For us to feel safe and for us to actually get better and really workout out here so i’m really appreciative of them.”
Outside of campus — California has seen a surge in coronavirus cases lately, causing the state to backtrack on their reopening plans.
It’s for sure different, so California kind of just went back a phase, where everything indoors is closed,” Malepeai said. “So you can’t do anything indoors, you know gyms, nothing, so we’ve had our weight room shifted outside. it’s outdoors now so it’s on the field.”
The workouts may look different, but the Aiea native is still made the trip back up to the west coast to train on campus, even though the season is in question.
When asked what's the one thing he will miss the most about Hawaii? Malepeai says his family.
“I haven’t really been homesick ever, I for sure miss my family,” Malepeai said. “But facetime calls and stuff like that makes it so much easier, so it’s not too bad, but I will say that my apartment out here is super quiet compared to how it is at home, at home it’s always loud and a lot of people in the house, but it is fun.”
The Malepeai family can cheer on the Trojans when they tentatively open the season on September 19th, against Stanford.