The first one was mighty successful, so Washington State figured it couldn’t hurt to go back to the Mauigoa family football tree.
Francisco Mauigoa, the middle brother of former Washington State center Fred Mauigoa, committed to the Cougars on Friday, becoming the program’s 19th pledge in the 2021 recruiting class. Francisco played high school football in Southern California as a junior but is now back home in Pago Pago, American Samoa, playing alongside one other brother, Francis, for undefeated Tafuna High.
The oldest Mauigoa was a three-year, 39-game starter on the offensive line, anchoring Mike Leach’s Air Raid while snapping for record-setting WSU quarterbacks such as Luke Falk, Gardner Minshew and most recently Anthony Gordon. He signed a free-agent deal with the Carolina Panthers following the NFL draft and had a brief stint with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Fred was hopeful his alma mater would take notice of his younger brother and was ecstatic when the Cougars pulled the trigger on offering Francisco two weeks ago.
“I thought it was awesome, and I’m really happy for him,” Fred, now living in Tonasket, said on the phone Friday evening. “I was really hoping he would come there, because after Liam (Ryan) leaves, I kind of want someone there I can come watch and support. Somebody I’m really close to.”
“… He’s a good player and he deserves to play in the Pac-12.”
Ryan and Fred Mauigoa met as freshmen and grew to be close friends during their time in Pullman. It didn’t hurt they were fellow offensive line starters, teaming up to block for the nation’s top passing attack. During the 2018 season, they played right next to each other, while Ryan was still at left guard.
Fred Mauigoa said Ryan, who’s entering his second year as WSU’s starting left tackle, has been nudging Nick Rolovich and his staff to take a chance on Francisco. Ryan and both Mauigoas spent time together in Southern California while Ryan was back home during the offseason and Fred was preparing for the NFL at the EXOS training facility.
“Liam has been really working to try and convince the coaches to have him come here, offer him,” Fred said.
Francisco will try to replicate his brother’s success as a Pac-12 football player, but he’ll likely have to do it on the other side of the ball. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound three-star recruit is a two-way athlete, but was primarily recruited by the Cougars and others as an outside linebacker.
WSU’s newest commit recorded 46 total tackles, five tackles-for-loss and one interception last season at Aquinas High School in San Bernardino, California. According to 247Sports.com, he was only a part-time defensive starter for Aquinas because the Falcons were also reliant on him as a dual-threat quarterback. Francisco threw for 1,113 yards and 10 touchdowns, rushing for another 475 yards and four touchdowns while leading Aquinas to the CIF Division 5 Championship in 2019.
Francisco is considered the nation’s No. 93 outside linebacker and also had offers from Army, Utah State, San Jose State, Hawaii, Idaho, Yale, Montana State and Idaho State.
“I would say they’re getting a ball-hawk linebacker that can basically track down the quarterback’s eyes,” Fred Mauigoa said. “Because he played quarterback, so he knows what it’s like. And he’s pretty fast. They’re going to get a speed guy. Well, who knows, he might develop some other skills (at WSU).”
Francisco should’ve been wrapping up his high school career at Aquinas, but he and Francis returned to American Samoa prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Travel restrictions meant the brothers wouldn’t be allowed back into the United States, though in some ways it couldn’t have worked out better. It was an unfortunate turn of events, certainly, but also meant Francisco and Francis would have a chance to play this fall – something that wouldn’t have been possible in the U.S. with California postponing its season. It also worked out splendidly for Tafuna, which not only added Francisco, a three-star OLB, to its roster, but also Francis, a four-star offensive tackle in the class of 2023 who’s considered the nation’s fourth-best recruit by 247Sports.com.
Naturally, Francis also holds a WSU offer, but he’ll be a much tougher catch. The high-school sophomore also has offers from LSU, Michigan, Oregon, Oklahoma, Nebraska and USC, to name a few. If Francis values loyalty, the Cougars could still be an option. After Idaho State, WSU was just the second school to offer the 6-foot-5, 258-pound lineman. He now has 17 offers in total and seven in the Pac-12.
Even if the chances are slim, big brother can still dream.
“I would feel really good if Francis was to come here,” Fred said. “I don’t think it’s likely he’ll be there, because of the other, bigger offers that he has.”