The pipeline between the Eastern Illinois football team and Saint Louis High School in Honolulu, Hawaii, continues. Senior Louis Vailopa, who was the team's starting center the past three seasons and played as a true freshman, is a graduate of Saint Louis High School. Aaron Miller, who is also from Saint Louis High School, started the final nine games at left tackle as a redshirt freshman this past season.
Even though Vailopa is graduating, the Panthers will still have two offensive lineman from Saint Louis High School as the Hawaii pipeline continued when Eliki Tanuvasa committed to join the EIU football program.
"First and foremost, they were the school that believed in me. Not every school did, but EIU saw the film and believed in my abilities," Tanuvasa said. "That belief moves mountains. Actually hearing that a school really wants me is a really good feeling."
Tanuvasa was in eighth grade when Vailopa was a senior and remembers watching him play in high school. Miller was a senior when Tanuvasa was a sophomore.
Tanuvasa had an offer from Army and he was thinking of walking on at the University of Hawaii or finding a junior college to attend when EIU offensive line coach Keith Uperesa, who is a Hawaii native, gave him a call. Tanuvasa actually got a heads up that Uperesa would call him.
"He contacted me and told me they were interested in me and to keep doing what I am doing and to keep working hard," Tanuvasa said. "I have a good relationship with him. he showed me the ropes when I came up to varsity and he showed me how to be a good offensive lineman."
Tanuvasa is listed at 6-2, 285 pounds and was primarily a center for Saint Louis and did play some guard.
"I mostly stay in the interior. This past year, only for a little bit, I had some reps at tackle," Tanuvasa said. "The plan is to have me stay at center at EIU, my primary position.
Tanuvasa plans to major in pre-law and has his goal outside of football set. He wants to be a judge.
"My cousin, she finished law school and I have a good friend who is one of the only Samoan judges," Miller said. "I got to know him and he explained what it means to be a judge."
Tanuvasa has been off the island and primarily visited the West Coast with Utah for some football camps along with Oregan and California. This will be the first time he visits Illinois and is ready for the challenge.
"It's going to be a challenge, but I am up for it. I knew Aaron got a scholarship from there and I didn't know much about (EIU)," Tanuvasa said. "I haven't seen snow before and it's going to be a new experience. I am just grateful to be there and be at a place I want to be at and grateful to play the game I love while getting an education."