Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, May 23, 2013 | 2 a.m.
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- High school football section
Liberty High incoming senior lineman Jarvis Polu was a mid- to low-level college football recruit most of the spring, receiving scholarship offers from UNLV, UNR, Idaho and Army.
Things quickly changed late last week when Wisconsin offered the 6-foot-4, 260-pound defensive end, immediately changing his status from an under-the-radar prospect to a solid three-star recruit by evaluating site Rivals.com.
That’s what happens when a national power from the Big 10 Conference offers a scholarship. Wisconsin and other Big 10 schools rarely scout the area.
New Wisconsin head coach Gary Anderson is more than familiar with recruiting Southern Nevada from coaching the past four seasons at Utah State. Liberty’s roster is loaded with players of Polynesian heritage and that’s a pipeline Wisconsin hopes to develop, Patriots coach Rich Muraco said.
Polu is being recruited by Wisconsin defensive line coach Chad Kauha’aha’a, who worked the area the past two seasons while coaching at Utah.
“What they want is to get a Polynesian pipeline to Wisconsin because they had a lot of success at Utah State recruiting those types of kids,” Muraco said.
UNR was the first offer him a scholarship; UNLV and Idaho followed suit. However, following the Wisconsin offer, the intrigue behind a player previously not known skyrocketed. On recruiting websites and fan message boards, some searched for more information on “that lineman from Vegas.”
So, here’s how Polu describes himself: “I think I do well off the pass rush as well as holding off the edge,” he said. “As an offensive lineman or blocker, I like to finish my blocks.”
Polu, who also plays tackle and tight end on the offensive line, has been a mainstay on both sides of the Liberty line the past two seasons. In that time, the Patriots have won consecutive Sunrise Region championships and become into one of the area’s perennial powers.
Most of Liberty’s offense during its rise to relevance came from running back Niko Kapeli (UNLV) and quarterback Kai Nacua (BYU). But with those players graduated, it will be up to Polu to lead the transition to a set of skilled-position players.
He’ll be a two-way starter again in the fall, and is being recruited as a defensive lineman by every school except Army, which is recruiting him as an athlete.
Taking the reins as one of Liberty’s leaders is a task he’s more than ready for. With the recruiting attention comes added pressure to perform on Friday nights — and Polu is up to the challenge. Wisconsin coaches said they were impressed with his work ethic in practice, he said.
“He is just a leader in everything he does — in the weight room and on the field,” Muraco said. “When we do conditioning with the linemen, he’ll run with the skilled guys.”
Polu will visit Wisconsin and Army this summer — he previously visited UNLV during the Rebels’ junior day. He’ll give serious consideration to Army, a school his military family is high on because his father is retired Army. Polu even had an Army-related shirt on during Tuesday’s practice.
“It feels very good,” he said of the scholarship offers. “All of the years of hard work are finally coming together.”