The big lineman, who has been a starter since his freshman year for the Spartans, has been recruited by the likes of Oregon, Michigan, Nebraska and Washington.
It is difficult to overlook Henry Bainivalu.
On a football field, he is one of the largest presences out there at 6 foot 6 and 295 pounds. But the Skyline High senior hasn’t received the same recognition that has come for other future Division I college lineman recruits in Washington.
Much has been written about guys like Foster Sarell at Graham-Kapowsin and others. Sarell has found himself on the radar of recruiting analysts and colleges since he was a freshman.
Bainivalu’s rise has proved much quieter.
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“You’re going to be hard-pressed in the future not to compare Henry with Sarell,” Skyline coach Mat Taylor said. “I think Henry is a future NFL lineman, for sure.”
Bainivalu won’t play in a ton of all-star games after his high-school career ends in a couple of months.
He hasn’t spent hundreds of weekends attending the clinics and camps where others that do play in those games get noticed — and recruiting analysts grade out players.
He will play in at least one, though.
Bainivalu has been chosen to participate in the inaugural Polynesian Bowl, a game to establish the best high school players of Polynesian heritage, in Hawaii. Bainivalu said former college and NFL star Jack Thompson let him know of the chance.
“I think it will be a great opportunity,” Bainivalu said. “Honestly, I do feel like I am under the radar. But I’m also grateful. I’ve never thought about this as an ego thing. And I don’t get mauled as much.”
Bainivalu, listed as the No. 3 recruit in the state by 247sports.com, has gotten noticed by those that matter.
Just last weekend, the Spartan took his first of five official recruiting visits to Oregon. Michigan, Nebraska, and Washington also are high on his list.
Where Bainivalu, listed as a four-star recruit, will end up going to college remains up in the air.
“To me, it’s more about the people,” Bainivalu said. “I know they’re all great schools to be at. It will come down to what kind of vibe I get from them. It is where I am going to spend the next four or five years.”
Of course, the last four years have proved quite successful — for Bainivalu, who started late in his freshman year, and the Spartans. While the winners of seven state championships since 2000 haven’t won one during Bainivalu’s tenure, the Spartans have never failed to make the playoffs, either.
He was big part of the team that reached the Class 4A state title game last December before falling to Gonzaga Prep 34-16. His efforts on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball in Week 2 of this year — a rematch with Gonzaga Prep — helped the Spartans to avenge that loss.
“Last December, they ran us pretty good,” Taylor said. “But we bottled them up this year. A lot of that is Henry. By the end of the game, their center wanted nothing to do with him.”
Bainivalu protects what has become famously known as “The Blind Side” for his quarterbacks — as a left-side offensive lineman at Skyline.
He possesses quick feet and solid fundamental technique borne from his younger days playing soccer and fullback, as well as many days on the basketball floor. Much like his more touted peers, Bainivalu has inspired his team and coach to know the safety net that he provides.
“It’s like with what Walter Jones brought (to the Seahawks),” Taylor said. “When in doubt, just run left.”