Hercules Mata'afa is WSU's first defensive consensus All-American since Rien Long in 2002
Tuesday was a good day for Washington State defensive tackle Hercules Mata’afa.
First, Mata’afa was named the Polynesian College Football Player of the Year by the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame selection committee.
Mata’afa, a junior from Lahaina, Hawaii, beat out four other finalists — Washington’s Vita Vea, Oregon State’s Manase Hungalu, Virginia Tech’s Andrew Motuapuaka and Hawaii’s Jahlani Tavai — for the award. He will be presented with the award at the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame dinner on Jan. 19.
Then, upon the Sporting News’ release of its All-American team Tuesday, Mata’afa picked up his third major first-team All-American nomination to become the Cougars’ first defensive consensus All-American since Rien Long in 2002.
To be acknowledged as a consensus All-American, a player must earn first-team All-American honors from three of the following five outlets: The Walter Camp Football Foundation, the Football Writers’ Association of America, The Sporting News, the Associated Press and the American Football Coaches Association.
WSU offensive guard Cody O’Connell was a unanimous All-American last season, and he joined Mata’afa on The Sporting News’ first team All-American list on Tuesday. O’Connell has now been named a first team All-American by the Walter Camp Football Foundation and The Sporting News, and a second-team All-American by the Associated Press.
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Mata’afa earned first team All-American nods from the AP, the Walter Camp Football Foundation and The Sporting News, but was named a second team All-American by the FWAA. The AFCA will release its All-American team Wednesday.
Mata’afa led the Pac-12 in tackles for loss (21.5) and sacks (9.5) this season, starting all 12 games for WSU, and finishing with 43 tackles, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
“I’m honored and blessed to receive the College Football Polynesian Player of the Year Award,” Mata’afa said in a recorded video acceptance speech released by WSU on Tuesday. “This award means so much to me because I’m able to receive it in my home state, and for my Samoan heritage.”
Mata’afa thanked the selection committee, his coaches and his teammates in the video, and also singled out former WSU quarterback Jack Thompson to thank him, saying Thompson “was instrumental to my growth here at WSU and I would like to carry on the tradition of the greart Polynesian players who came before me.”
In addition to his three-major first team All-American honors, Mata’afa was also named a first team All-Pac-12 selection by both the conference and the Associated Press, and last week, won AP Pac-12 defensive player of the year honors.
Mata’afa is the first defensive player to win the Polynesian College Football Player of the Year award. Oregon QB Marcus Mariota won the inaugural award in 2014, Notre Dame offensive lineman Ronnie Stanley won it in 2015, and Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau won it in 2016.
Mata’afa is one of 11 players of Polynesian descent on WSU’s roster.