Three of the five finalists for the award play in the Pac-12.
Washington State’s Hercules Mata’afa and Washington’s Vita Vea are two of the five finalists for the Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award, the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame announced Tuesday morning.
Three of the five finalists play in the Pac-12, with the third being Oregon State linebacker Manase Hungalu. The other two finalists are Hawaii linebacker Jahlani Tavai and Virginia Tech linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka.
The award is presented annually to the most outstanding Polynesian college football player that epitomizes great ability and integrity. Former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota was the inaugural winner of the award in 2014, while Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufao won the award last year.
Mata’afa, a junior of Samoan ancestry and a Hawaii native, started all 12 games for WSU this season, and leads the Pac-12 in sacks (9.5) and tackles for loss (21.5). Mata’afa was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week in Week 12, after a career-high five tackles-for-loss and three sacks, with one forced fumble and a fumble recovery in WSU’s win over Utah. He’s a Bednarik Award semifinalist and a Walter Camp Award semifinalist.
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Vea is a junior of Tongan ancestry from Palo Alto, Calif. He started every game for UW this season and he has 38 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks on the season. Vea also has four pass breakups. He’s a Bednarik Award semifinalist and was named an Associated Press preseason All-American this year.
The finalists were chosen by a selection committee that includes chairman Dick Tomey, Ron McBride, Dick Vermeil, Kevin Mawae, Ray Schoenke, Neil Everett, Gil Brandt, Steve Wyche and Robert Kekaula.
The winner will be announced on Dec. 12, and the award will be presented to the winner at the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame Celebration Dinner on Jan. 19, and recognized at the Polynesian Bowl on Jan. 20.