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Matai Mata’afa makes the most out of his opportunity with Mississippi State

Matai Mata’afa makes the most out of his opportunity with Mississippi State
(Courtesy: @Matai_Mataafa42/Twitter)

Sophie San - BVM Sports Contributor

LAHAINA, Hawaii — Matai Mata’afa is one of the best football prospects to come out of the island of Maui in quite some time.

He comes from the northwestern point of Maui, a little place called Lahaina. Mata’afa was a standout player in high school and even had a scholarship offer from Washington State heading into his senior season. His older brother, Hercules Mata’afa, played football at Washington State and was one of their best players while there. Hercules is now currently on the Minnesota Vikings practice squad in the NFL.

Matai Mata’afa was happy to get this offer from Washington State but expected the offers to continue to roll in after that first big time offer. He had a lot of interest from other big schools but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and ended his senior season of football before it even began. Matai stayed in shape just in case the season got the OK to kickoff, but it never happened and no other offers came through.

“It was tough,” said the 6-foot-1 and 220-pound Mata’afa. “I was expecting to get a lot of offers but then COVID hit and ended our season before it started. I kept training in case they decided to let us play last season and I made sure I was in tiptop shape. But we never got to play.”

It was a tough break for Matai, and he would have to wait his time after having a big junior season where his team won the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II State Championship. He led the defense to holding opposing teams to an impressive 10 points or less per game.

A last-minute call from Mississippi State came from one of their assistant coaches after the season and they offered him a spot as a preferred walk-on player. This was a huge opportunity to play in the best league in college football, the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Matai jumped at the opportunity but as a preferred walk-on he was not guaranteed to make the team while going all the way from Hawaii to Mississippi which is over 4,000 miles away. He was excited to get on campus, however.

“The coaches sent me a workout book, so I’ve been working at that,” said Mata’afa. “I plan to get there at the end of May and it is a special opportunity for me. I wanted to play for Coach Phelps when we met a couple of years ago. We hit it off right away and he is a cool dude. I like Mississippi State and I want to play against teams like Alabama and LSU. It is going to be great to play against the best in the SEC.”

Matai got to Mississippi State and made the roster but had to redshirt for his freshman season meaning he would not see the field at all in his first year. Still, Matai has made his dream come true of getting to be on one of the very best college football teams in the country. He is a bit undersized to be an SEC defensive lineman, but he will continue to work on his body getting bigger and faster for when his opportunity to see the field finally happens.

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