Daniel Heimuli — who earned defensive MVP honors at the Polynesian Bowl last weekend — won a championship with Washington defensive tackle signee Noa Ngalu in December. Could the Menlo-Atherton high school teammates and "brothers" repeat the feat at UW?
That’s what Daniel Heimuli found at Menlo-Atherton High School in Menlo Park, Calif., where the 2019 linebacker prospect secured a California state title last December.
That’s what the consensus four-star recruit brought with him to Hawaii, where he was named the defensive MVP of the Polynesian Bowl All-Star Game last Saturday.
And that’s what he’s hoping to discover during an official visit at the University of Washington this weekend.
“(I’m looking for) family, really, because that’s what I’m going to miss the most,” Heimuli said in a phone interview with The Times on Tuesday. “Hopefully I can find my second family and second home.”
He wouldn’t have to look far. Heimuli attended Menlo-Atherton with Noa Ngalu, a 280-pound defensive tackle who signed with UW in December. In between the lines, Heimuli literally watched Ngalu’s back. Outside of it, they were inseparable. Their houses sit two blocks apart. They won together, lost together, traced the path back and forth from school together.
Heimuli and Ngalu are close, literally and figuratively.
“If I did something, he would be there too. If he did something, I would be there too,” Heimuli said. “Whenever we went to go eat, it’d be us two. Whenever we went to go work out, it’d be us two. Whenever coach needed something, it’d be like, ‘Ask Daniel,’ or, ‘Ask Noa.’
“We were a combo. Wherever he’s at, I’m at. Wherever I’m at, he’s at.”
Ngalu will be in Seattle this summer.
Will Heimuli be there, too?
“I would be absolutely stunned if he didn’t end up there,” said 247Sports national recruiting editor Brandon Huffman. “I would just be stunned if Washington didn’t get him. The only wild card in there is Oregon to an extent, because he visited (previously). But they had so much ground to make up, and Washington is essentially going to get the last real visit.”
Granted, Heimuli — who is ranked by 247Sports as the No. 155 overall player in the 2019 class, and the No. 9 inside linebacker — also plans to visit Alabama between now and national signing day on Feb. 6. But the California linebacker’s primary recruiter in Tuscaloosa, Tosh Lupoi, just left to become the defensive line coach for the Cleveland Browns. Huffman speculated that “with Alabama losing Tosh, I think the Alabama visit is just that. It’s just a visit.”
Chris Petersen and Co. are hoping Heimuli’s third stop in Seattle precedes a more permanent stay.
And, considering the Huskies are tasked with replacing their top two tacklers from 2018 — linebackers Ben Burr-Kirven and Tevis Bartlett, who produced a combined 249 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, seven forced fumbles and three sacks last season — they could certainly use the help.
“He’s got the versatility,” Huffman said. “He can be a true inside linebacker. He can blitz. He can get to the quarterback, get past his blockers. But if you want to drop him outside you can, because he can drop into coverage. He’s really athletic. He moves well in space. He’s sideline to sideline.
“He’s a running back too for his (high school) team, so he’s a two-way player, a lot like (UW early signee) Josh Calvert. He’s just an all-around football player.”
Heimuli showed that last weekend, when the 6-foot-2, 225-pound linebacker — who also plays third base on his high school’s baseball team — piled up six tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and a sack en route to earning defensive MVP honors at the Polynesian Bowl in Honolulu.
He was joined, as always, by Ngalu … and eight other Washington signees.
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And, as expected, the sales pitches came early and often.
“Every night,” he said with a laugh, when asked how frequently UW signees attempted to recruit him. “Every chance they got. Every chance they got.”
Of course, Washington already has three linebacker signees in the 2019 class — four-star Josh Calvert (6-1, 227) and three-star recruits Miki Ah You (6-0, 207) and Alphonzo Tuputala (6-2, 249).
But, should he sign with UW, Heimuli might be the most prized prospect of the group.
“He carried his team to a state championship, not taking any plays off,” Huffman said. “They don’t have a lot of depth on that team so he was playing literally every snap. He’s tough. He’s got really good durability, but I think his athleticism really is remarkable.”
Technically, Heimuli carried Menlo-Atherton to a state championship with the help of Ngalu — with his family. To use Heimuli’s word, they were a “combo.” Teammates. Brothers.
Why not continue that collaboration in college, too?
“He’s my brother for life,” Heimuli said. “I’ve been rocking with (Ngalu) since freshman year. I hang out with him every day. So that’s my guy.
“It would be unbelievable (to continue to play together). Being able to play with my brother, it’s amazing. To already have family at the college I’d be going to, it’d be amazing, because I’d have a piece of home with me.”