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September 18, 2014

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Local football player verbally committed to Army

Desert Pines’ Tala Atimalala to take recruiting trip for this weekend’s Army-Navy game

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Desert Pines High senior football player Tala Atimalala Jr. verbally committed to Army nearly two months ago.

This weekend, 6-foot, 245-pound defensive lineman will get introduced to arguably the nation’s most significant rivalry when he takes his recruiting trip for the storied Army-Navy rivalry game.

“I’m so excited they picked this weekend to invite me out,” he said.

This is the second straight year Desert Pines has sent an athlete to a Division I school. Last year, wide receiver and defensive back Eric Tuiloma signed with UNLV.

“Everyone obviously wants to win a state championship, but that isn’t why we are really into this game,” Desert Pines coach Paul Bennett said. “One of the biggest thrills I have is seeing a kid whose family has no real money, but the kid has some athletic ability and smarts, and gets a full ride.”

The Army was a perfect fit for Atimalala.

It was the football program he feels comfortable with and the education at West Point speaks for itself. “You can get a job wherever you want with a degree from there,” he said.

Atimalala comes from a military family.

His dad, Tala Atimalala Sr., did an 18-month tour with the U.S. Army Reserve in 2009. Atimalala Sr., a longtime assistant coach at Desert Pines, is known to be a strict disciplinarian on the gridiron and at home.

“The Army has been real good to my family,” Atimalala Jr. said. “It’s given us discipline. My dad is real strict with us and says that’s the way it is in the Army.”

Bennett beams when asked about the accomplishment of sending one of his players to West Point.

“I’ve watched him grow since he was a pup,” Bennett said. “This is a proud moment for me. Saying one of your kids is going to a military academy is special.”

Verbal commitments are non-binding. National signing day is in early February.

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