Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Within days of Nela Otukolo arriving at Bishop Gorman High School last February from Hawaii, word quickly started spreading of a new linebacker in town.
And, according to those spreading the word, this massive looking defender immediately passes the eye test. Yes, Otukolo is big at 6 feet, 240 pounds.
Soon, legend of this potentially great middle linebacker started growing — he’s physical, quick and has all the football instincts needed to be great. One quick search on YouTube confirms the proclamations: Otukolo makes every play look easy and is downright physical.
Come Friday night, when Gorman opens its season by hosting Mountain Pointe of Arizona in the Sollenberger Classic, the legend of that new linebacker could be confirmed. Otukolo will be front-and-center leading nationally ranked Gorman’s defense.
“I can’t wait to get out there and do my thing,” he said. “The field is my sanctuary. I like to be on the field and do what I’m told to the best of my ability.”
He’s one of 29 players from 13 different schools on the Sun’s preseason all-city team. Players come from all parts of Southern Nevada — Moapa Valley High in Overton, Boulder City High, Legacy High in North Las Vegas, four schools in Henderson and Valley High in the middle of Las Vegas.
It’s a collection of the most talented and athletic players in the area. Some have already committed to Division I programs; others have major recruiting interest.
Then, there’s the Otukolo — he’s a still bit of a mystery. Here’s how he describes himself:
“I like to be physical. I like to fly around and challenge myself to not take plays off,” he said. “I’m going to be a leader out there. I’ll do whatever it takes to win. I can’t until everyone sees our defense and sees our team.”
Otukolo played last season at Hawaii power St. Louis High in Honolulu and was regarded as one of the state’s top linebackers despite being just a sophomore. After the season ended, his family made the decision to move to Las Vegas, where Otukolo’s football talents could blossom at nationally respected Gorman.
While it was tough leaving his lifelong home, everything immediately clicked once he joined the Gorman program. For as heralded as he was when he arrived, he’s already a more complete player.
His body almost immediately transformed in the program’s weight training and conditioning program — he’s more lean and muscles are defined, and he added 20 pounds of mostly muscle. He also has a better understanding of the game and his position.
“It is crazy how Gorman teaches the little things. I have learned more in the past months than I did in my whole life,” he said.
Five of Otukolo’s Gorman teammates are part of the all-city team, which was selected by the Sun’s Ray Brewer. Here’s a look at the rest of the team:
About Drew: Despite missing the final four games of 2012, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Doxtator passed for 1,998 yards with 17 touchdowns in completing 50 percent of his passes. During a three-game stretch, he passed for at least 450 yards per game and 14 touchdowns. He passed for 2,687 yards with 37 touchdowns and just six interceptions in 2011 as a sophomore. He’s a three-star recruiting prospect by Rivals.com.
About Antraye: One of the Sunrise Region’s most versatile offensive weapons, Johnson combined for 18 touchdowns in 2012 and was a threat to score each time he touched the ball. He rushed for 921 yards and 13 touchdowns, and caught 30 passes for 582 yards and five more touchdowns. He’ll be Basic’s quarterback this fall.
About Andrew: Moreland is Southern Nevada’s leading returning rusher, gaining 1,211 yards in 2012 with 13 touchdowns, and averaging nearly nine yards per rush attempt. He also caught 25 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown.
About Jackson: Cofer helped Coronado reach the state semifinals in 2012 for the first time in school history, catching 37 passes for 605 yards and nine touchdowns. He also rushed 29 times for 260 yards and two touchdowns.
About Markus: Varner is the leading returning receiver in Southern Nevada, catching 52 passes for 611 yards and seven touchdowns in 2012. Against Las Vegas High, he caught 11 passes for 146 yards. In the Sunrise Regional quarterfinals, he caught a pair of touchdowns.
About Alize: Jones is ranked as the nation’s top tight end for the class of 2015 and already has double-digit scholarship offers, coming from the likes of UCLA, Notre Dame, USC, Nebraska and Baylor. He developed late during his sophomore season, finishing with nine catches for 222 yards and three touchdowns. He had two touchdowns in the state championship game, including a catch-and-run for a 78-yard score before halftime.
About Tyrell: The 6-foot-4, 300-pound Crosby is ranked by Rivals.com as a three-star prospect and the nation’s No. 33 offensive tackle for the class of 2014. He’s verbally committed to Oregon, but still being actively recruited by schools such as Florida and USC. He’s a significant reason why some feel Green Valley is considered a favorite to win the Sunrise Region.
About Nick: The 6-foot-5, 270-pound Gates was deciding whether he’d be best suited to play college football or baseball until this spring. Then, Alabama called. The defending national football champions offered a scholarship to open the recruiting flood gates. Now, he has double-digit offers [--] from the likes of Nebraska, Cal, Oregon State, Arizona and Washington. He could be a force at the next level when he adds bulk to his frame to complement quickness off the ball. And, he still pitches and plays first base for Gorman’s nationally respected baseball program.
About Mathew: The 6-foot-5, 270-pound McDermand is the best player in Division I-A, picking up scholarship offers from UNLV and UTEP. He’ll anchor the Pirates’ line again this fall, giving them an advantage each game because of his size and strength.
About Jarvis: The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Polu, who is verbally committed to Army, is listed by Rivals.com as a three-star prospect and Nevada’s No. 7 overall recruit. He doubles on the defensive line, using his speed to make an impact on both sides of the ball. He’s been a key contributor the past two seasons in Liberty’s Sunrise championship team.
About Griffin: The 6-foot-5, 270-pound Kemp is the leader on a Palo Verde offensive line that is expected to be one of the best fronts in the state. The offensive tackle was an all-Northwest League selection in 2012.
About Randall: Cunningham, the son of the UNLV and NFL legend with the same name, is the nation’s No. 13-ranked dual-threat quarterback. He has nearly 20 scholarship offers, coming from the likes of Arizona State, Baylor, Kansas State, Mississippi State and others.
Cunningham is also an elite high jumper in track, last spring breaking a state record that stood for more than 30 years by clearing 7 feet.
About Xavier: Steel is the first from Boulder City to make the Sun’s preseason team in football or basketball. Some feel he’s the best running back in Division I-A. Last year, he rushed for 1,067 yards and nine touchdowns in averaging nearly 10 yards per carry. As a sophomore in 2011, he gained 654 yards and had seven scores.
About Lantz: Worthington had 1,200 total yards in 2012, including 376 yards on kick returns. With 4.5 second speed in the 40-yard dash, he’s a threat to score each time he touches the ball. Last season, he had three receiving touchdowns, also rushing for 644 yards and six touchdowns.
About Austin: Fitzgerald made 10 of 11 field goal attempts in 2012 — including a long of 48 yards in the state championship game — to be named a Maxpreps.com All-American for the class of 2014.
About Reno: An absolute force on the defensive line, Tu’ufuli was equally successful in pass and run defense for Sunrise Region champion Liberty. He finished 2012 with 37 tackles, five sacks and an interception. He’s also a leader on the Liberty offensive line.
About Zack: The 6-foot-2, 285-pound Singer is a four-year varsity performer at power Bishop Gorman and arguably the nationally ranked team’s most important player. He’s a three-star recruiting prospect by Rivals.com and a two-time member of the Sun’s preseason team. He’s primarily a defensive lineman, but also contributes on the offensive front.
About Rayshawn: The 5-foot-11, 285-pound Henderson is a two-time member of the Sun’s preseason team. He’s nicknamed ‘Worm’ for his ability to shed blockers and make tackles. He was an all-Northeast League selection the past two seasons.
About Noble: Already committed to San Diego State, Hall started to blossom midway through last season, going from still learning his defensive end position to one of Southern Nevada’s top college prospects. The 6-foot-4, 235-pounder finished 2012 with 48 solo tackles (seven for loss), 16 assists and four sacks. He also forced three fumbles, recovered two and returned an interception for a touchdown. Once he adds bulk to his frame, Hall could become a college standout.
About Michael: Hughes Jr., who will be a third-year varsity performer, is arguably the top player in the Northwest League. He’ll play on both sides of the line for the Panthers. He has multiple scholarship offers — Duke, UNLV, UNR, San Diego State, Northern Arizona and Southern Utah.
About Dylan: The 6-foot-2, 290-pound Weasa, who had 48 tackles and two sacks in 2012, returns for his third year as a defensive line starter at Foothill. In 2011, he burst onto the scene with four sacks.
About Jake: A star on both sides of the ball for the perennial power Panthers, Ortale had 55 tackles and six sacks in 2012. At tight end, he caught 18 passes for 345 yards and three touchdowns. More important, he was a key blocker in Palo Verde’s rushing attack.
About Nela: A transfer from Hawaii power St. Louis High, the 6-foot, 240-pound Otukolo is already considered one of the best defenders in the Las Vegas area. Last year, when Gorman beat St. Louis, Otukolo was all over the field in registering double-digit tackles. He’ll be a leader on a Gorman defense already loaded with multiple Division I recruits.
About Jacob: Littlefield had 95 tackles and three sacks last season as a sophomore, becoming the next great defender in a long line of elite Las Vegas High players. The Northeast League is arguably the toughest in the state. And Littlefield is arguably the league’s top defensive player.
About Toby: Lopez was one of Southern Nevada’s top tacklers in 2012 with 126 total tackles, including 21 against Legacy. Despite being undersized at 5-foot-8, Lopez is constantly around the ball making plays.
About Casey: Hughes had 26 tackles and three interceptions in 2012. He’s also a state champion sprinter in track, running a 4.4-second 40-yard dash to firmly establish himself as a Division I prospect. He has scholarship offers from Oregon State, Utah and others.
About Diamante: The 5-foot-11, 165-pound Luna will be a third-year varsity starter in the Canyon Springs secondary, recording three interceptions and 12 passes breakups last season. He doubles at receiver and averaged 24.2 yards per catch in 2012.
About Armand: The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Perry had 55 tackles and one interception in 2012, and had a fumble return for a touchdown in the rivalry game against Palo Verde. He’s a three-star recruiting prospect by Rivals.com and Nevada’s No. 8 overall recruit.
About Conor: Hit a 37-yard field goal as time expired to give Green Valley the win last season against Canyon Springs in the Northeast League title game. Added two field goals in a playoff victory against Foothill. Perkins, who will be a third-year varsity performer, has a scholarship offer from UNLV.