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March 4, 2015

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prep recruiting:

Liberty football player P.J. Taeao picks Southern Utah


Pj Taeao leads his Liberty teammates in the Haka following a playoff victory against Canyon Springs in the 2010 Sunrise Regional semifinals.

P.J. Taeao

Liberty High senior lineman P.J.Taeao, who will be a four-year varsity starter, talks about the upcoming high school football season.

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Liberty High senior lineman P.J. Taeao verbally committed to the Southern Utah University football program after a weekend recruiting trip.

The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Taeao, who was a four-year starter up and excelled this past fall on both sides of the ball, will play defensive tackle at the next level.

“I told the coaches up there that I would like the chance to show them what I can do on defense,” Taeao said.

When Taeao arrived at Liberty, the Patriots were widely considered one of the worst program’s in the Las Vegas Valley. But he helped transform them into a Sunrise Region power, anchoring one of the best lines in the state as Liberty won the last two region crowns. Taeao was an all-Southeast Division selection multiple times.

In 2010, Liberty lost in the state semifinals by one point. Last fall, the Patriots only trailed perennial power Bishop Gorman by one point midway through the third quarter before running out of gas.

Taeao also had offers from San Diego, Dixie State, Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Eastern New Mexico, Western New Mexico and Arkansas Tech and University of Incarnate Word in San Antonio. But Southern Utah was the perfect match, especially since it’s close to his home base in Las Vegas.

“The team was real family orientated team,” Taeao said. “The coaches were great. It wasn’t too far from home. My parents can watch games, but it still is far enough where I can get some independence and grow.”

Verbal commitments are non-binding until an athlete signs a national letter of intent. Signing day is Wednesday.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at

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  1. kid was a beast, good choice. Hope he makes the most of his free education. UNLV gets a lot of grief for not getting some of these guys, and i'm sure some of them they didn't make a good effort to try and get. However like this story and Scroggins/Phillipi at Gorman a big part of it is that most kids don't want to stay home for college. They want to move and experience the "going away" to college thing, even if it's to a crappier program than UNLV.

  2. Not so with this one Tua. Polynesians, especially Samoans, tend to be hometeam people. They always gravitate towards each other and support their home or their own! P.J.'s dad is a very close friend. UNLV was their first preference just like it was for Sam Tai. They actively pursued the opportunity to play for the Rebels. They wanted to be part of the home team and help develop them to be a better team. UNLV took little to no interest in him despite his playing ability on both sides of the ball along with SAT scores and grades! They only started showing interest after a number of other schools started offering (just like Tai's situation) but they still didnt return phone calls or emails. At that point, UNLV's interest became insulting to them. Polynesians are very proud people and UNLV's treatment of the Taeao family was a slap in the face. Once again, UNLV football fumbles the ball!! Great job to P.J. and his family! They deserve it! Awesome choice have gained an excellent scholar-athlete in P.J. Taeao!! Go Thunderbirds!!

  3. Good morning Respect1".we were all at Liberty together. While the Tai's have moved back to Utah and are doing very well the rest of us are still at Liberty. My knowledge regarding the situation for both athletes mentioned above (and many other Polynesian athletes in Vegas) is intimate and firsthand. I still help parents at Liberty with recruitment of their kids. We are a close knit group of islanders. Your comments about Arkansas and UCLA are accurate. But my point is"UNLV did not make an offer to Sam Tai until well after several other schools made an offer. The initial plan was to farm all of our boys to UNLV and we made every effort to showcase these athletes to the coaches through camp participation, meetings, and information submissions. As a matter of fact, Sanford was very excited about the relationship we were building with him. The connection to the local islander community was something he valued and treated respectfully. But Polynesian or not, the athletes were and are very accomplished both on the field and in the classroom with the accolades to boot. The Las Vegas valley is brimming with athletic talent! Why is it that other schools recognize this and UNLV continues to shop elsewhere? I'm still a Rebel fan because it is still the home team and I'm very close with several of the players' families. But the current staff really needs to learn about tapping into local and in-state talent early & actively"not when it's too late! The coaches and schools that have been recruiting our athletes have shown sincere interest right from the beginning. Phone calls, emails and occasional visits were made checking on the athlete's progress in class as well as the football season. Communication was reciprocal and regular. Hopefully, UNLV's staff will get it together. Until they learn how to rally more of the Las Vegas valley around them"the football seasons will be as dry the summer heat around here!

  4. By the way, I wanted to cite something relative to the post above. P.J.'s father told me something that I found absolutely refreshing. He said in his meeting with SUU's head coach, Ed Lamb, he was pleased at the coach's first few words. Coach Lamb apologized for the delay in finalizing the details of P.J.'s scholarship offer. He said, "We recruit Utah first so I had to get that in order before moving on to our out-of-state recruits"" Isn't that something?