College coaches looking for speedy skill in the high school ranks don’t have to look far. Skill players that can run are peppered throughout the country. Finding speed and athleticism to man the trenches is a much different proposition. That is why junior Nifae LeaLao is such a hot commodity already.
At 6-foot-5, 265 pounds, LeaLao has the frame that college coaches look for but it’s his athleticism that sets him apart. Already LeaLao has offers from Oregon State, Stanford, Washington, BYU and Colorado. With some impressive camp performances over the summer, word quickly spread about the rare athlete.
“Pretty much everyone’s been telling me it’s my get-off is what sets me apart,” LeaLao said. “I went to camps in June and they like the way I use my hands and move. Someone that’s as big and as fast as I am is something they don’t see that much. I don’t think about it too much though. I just have to keep going and keep playing how I’m playing.”
Though he considers himself a defensive player first, LeaLao also could project to offensive tackle and has been playing on both sides of the ball for his Sacramento (Calif.) Capital Christian School. But to characterize LeaLao as a defensive standout would be selling him short. In fact, to limit him to a football standout is underselling him as well. LeaLao hopes to play both football and basketball on the next level.
“I’ve been playing basketball as long as I’ve been playing football,” he said. “When people ask me what sport I like, I say I play both sports equally. I’m just as committed to football as basketball.”
That athleticism that is so rare on the football field is also what sets LeaLao apart on the basketball court. He has the ability to knock down the three-ball but his footwork in the post separates him.
“What people like about my game is that I can use my footwork inside and I have a variety of post moves,” he said. “That helps me in football with my speed rush and my get-off.”
Though he hopes to play both sports on the next level, football is where LeaLao’s opportunities are most frequently arising. Along with his five verbal offers, LeaLao has received serious interest from Notre Dame, UCLA, Alabama, Nebraska and Wisconsin in the past week since schools have been able to reach out to juniors.
While one Pac-12 school sits high on his list, LeaLao is anxious to get a feel for some schools outside his region as well.
“For a while I always wanted to go to Stanford,” he said. “That’s always been my dream school, just the balance of academics and athleticis they have there. I had an opportunity to step on campus and explore a little bit after I went to camp. Something about it made me feel like I could go there.
“I intend on keeping an open mind about the east cost schools and I don’t have any favorites but I do plan on visiting the schools that give me interest my junior year. I’ve always been a Pac-12 lover. Going into the 11th and 12th grade, I’ve been keeping an open mind about the east coast and seeing about going out there.”
LeaLao is currently rated by 247Sports as the No. 48 prospect in the nation, No. 3 in the state of California and the No. 5 strongside defensive end in the country for the class of 2014. He has helped his team to a 2-0 start to the 2012 season.