Entering the season, Jefferson had only sent two football players to college on an NCAA Division I athletic scholarship since 1986.
In an on-campus signing ceremony Wednesday, lineman Paul Matavao-Poialii became the third, as the senior inked a National Letter of Intent to play on full athletic scholarship at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.
“He’s helped put Jefferson football on the map,” Jefferson head coach Will Maddox said during his introductory speech. “Wherever we go, people are talking about that lineman from Jefferson.”
Surrounded by family members and in front of an audience of over 100 people at the ceremony in Jefferson’s lower gymnasium, Matavao-Poialii made the announcement by picking up a green-and-gold Baylor hat and fastening it on the head of his 7-year-old younger brother Nehemiah.
“It’s going to feel like I’m graduating today,” Matavao-Poialii said prior to the ceremony.
The 6-4, 320-pound lineman had 12 scholarship offers from Division I schools, with his final four schools including Fresno State, Kansas and Oregon State. In choosing Baylor, Matavao-Poialii will go from Grizzly (Jefferson’s mascot) to Bear (Baylor mascot), and intends to play offensive right guard at the Big 12 Conference university.
“We sent out a lot of film of him throughout the entire country,” Maddox said. “His play just got him to the point where he was a Power 5 guy.”
In two years at Jefferson, Matavao-Poialii starred as a two-way lineman. On defense, he recorded 73 career solo tackles, and 98 total tackles. As a senior this season, he earned Peninsula Athletic League Lake Division Most Valuable Player honors, totaling 49 solo tackles, 66 total tackles, 12 sacks and 30 tackles for losses on the year.
Each of those totals marked new program records, according to Maddox. Matavao-Poialii also set new single-game records with eight solo tackles Oct. 19 against El Camino, and with four sacks Sept. 1 against Los Altos.
A transfer from Riordan-SF during his sophomore year, Matavao-Poialii said he thought his football career was over when he arrived at Jefferson. A Daly City native, he grew up playing Pop Warner football for the Daly City Titans and the SF Warriors. While at Riordan, however, he fractured a knee while playing rugby.
“When I transferred to Jeff, I really didn’t think I was going to play football,” Matavao-Poialii said.
After a positive assessment during a second medical opinion, Matavao-Poialii opted to continue with his football career as a junior at Jefferson. Now, with two varsity seasons in the books, he is joining some elite company in Jefferson history.
Since 1986, two previous Jefferson football players have gone directly to the Division I ranks on athletic scholarship: Tyrese Knox, who graduated in 1986, went to University of Nebraska; and Leolofi Tamasese, a 2011 graduate, went to Army.
“It’s a blessing,” Matavao-Poialii said.
M-A’s Heimuli picks Washington
Menlo-Atherton linebacker Daniel Heimuli, the PAL Bay Division Defensive Player of the Year, signed his NLI Wednesday to attend University of Washington on a full athletic scholarship.
Heimuli is the second player from M-A’s CIF Division 3-AA state championship team to commit to Washington this season. Lineman Noa Ngalu, the PAL Bay Division MVP, also signed his NLI Wednesday, after announcing his verbal commitment to the Huskies earlier this season.
Atherton has become quite a pipeline for the Huskies in recent years. Ben Burr-Kirven starred as an All-American linebacker at Washington, and closed his career there this year as a senior by ranking first in the nation with 176 total tackles to help the Huskies to the 2018 Rose Bowl.