Percy Taumoelau is what some might call a diamond in the rough.
At 6-foot-6 and 310 pounds, he looks every bit the part of a fierce left tackle. But because he didn't play varsity football until last year, Taumoelau had no college football offers as his junior season ended.
That all changed when he began working out this spring. That's when dozens of college coaches made their way to Cottonwood High School to see his teammate, John Martinez, one of the top-ranked linemen in the country. Fortunately for him, the Colts' linemen workout together and he often lifts weights with Martinez so when coaches watched Martinez, they caught a glimpse of Taumoelau.
"They came into look at John, but Percy's obviously going to catch people's eyes," said Cottonwood coach Cecil Thomas.
And some of the coaches saw enough potential that they offered him scholarships. Last Monday Arkansas called Thomas and asked them to officially extend an offer to Taumoelau.
"This was his first big-time offer," said Thomas."He's a late bloomer. He has huge, huge upside."
Taumoelau is beginning to catch up with his teammates in skill and accolades. He was awarded the MVP of offensive linemen at the Nike Camp at BYU this spring, and he's also got an offer from Weber State and SMU is showing interest.
"That (award) was huge for him," said Thomas. "It's just about getting confidence for that kid ... I am actually surprised more local schools haven't offered him. He's got everything."
Taumoelau said he was stunned to hear a program like Arkansas wanted him.
"I was kind of surprised, but it's very exciting," Taumoelau said. "I just thought I was OK. I was pretty happy to get the call. The SEC is a great conference. The coaches are cool."
He said he's already planning to visit the Razorbacks' campus after the season ends. As for where he might like to end up, he has no idea just yet.
"My uncles want me to go out of state," he said. "My mom thinks Arkansas is too far, but she just wants me to go somewhere that will benefit me."
He said he's taking a little ribbing from his coaches and teammates now that he's on the radar of college coaches, but he's just fine with the teasing if it comes with the chance to play collegiate football.
"It's not stressful yet," he said. "Just enjoying it. All I have to do is work hard. After the season I'll see what my options are."
Martinez said he couldn't be happier for Taumoelau.
"I always think it's cool when coaches are interested in my teammates," he said. Even at just 17, he understands what he does reflects on his teammates.
"I think there's responsibility behind it because if I mess up, it will spread through the whole team," he said. Martinez said he's excited for the upcoming season and is trying to put the hype of recruiting on the back burner for a while. He has campus visits planned to USC, LSU and Ohio State, but his priority is helping the Colts win football games this fall.
"I feel much more pressure this year," he said. "If I mess up, everyone will say, 'Yeah, that Martinez kid, he's over-rated.' I don't want that to happen."
Thomas said he hopes to help all of his athletes deal with the stress of both the season and being recruited with the same cure focus on playing their best.
"The minute they start worrying about colleges, it takes over their playing ability," Thomas said. "You just go out there and take care of business and then the opportunities will be there."
Bingham High's Remington Peck said one of the reasons he committed to BYU this summer is so he could focus on only his senior season. His coach, Dave Peck, said the coaches may not have come specifically to see Remington, but once they did, he impressed them.
"For him it made a difference for coaches to see him in spring and summer workouts," said Dave Peck. "Did they come for him? I don't think so. But once they were here, they were pleasantly surprised by what they saw."
By delaying their decision about where to play, Martinez and Taumoelau will have the chance to visit the campuses of colleges that are pursuing them, but it also can add to the pressure of wanting to have a successful senior season.
Thomas said he's had players who've dealt well with the stress and others who have not. Those who struggle with the pressure can adversely affect the chemistry of the team."This is an unselfish group," he said of these seniors. "I've had some get jealous of each other, but I don't see that happening with this group of guys."
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