One of Preston Taumua’s greatest highlights is how much he highlights others

BY NICK ABRAMO | PUBLISHED NOV 18, 2023

Preston Taumua rates as the proverbial big man on campus at Aiea, but that’s not how he tells it.

Sure, he listens when people tell him how good he is as Na Alii’s left tackle, but in his own mind, he’s not at that advanced point yet.

“It’s nice to hear it from others,” Taumua told Hawaii Sports Radio Network on Wednesday. “It was in the middle of ninth grade that I would hear the coaches and that’s when I knew I had to keep playing the sport.”

Photo credit: Nick Abramo

Even now as a highly recruited junior with the plaudits and scholarship offers continuing to roll in, he’s in awe of it all.

“When I got the Oregon offer, I was surprised because I don’t think I’m close to my potential yet in high school,” Taumua said.

That may be true, but where he’s at is not only good enough for the Ducks’ brass, but also seven other FBS Division I schools. Alabama, among the most storied college football programs ever, is the latest to send a scholarship offer Taumua’s way. The others are big-name programs Ohio State, Florida, Oklahoma, Utah, Arizona and Nebraska.

“He’s still growing,” Aiea coach Wendell Say said about the 6-foot-5, 320-pound lineman. “He was 6-4 last year and grew an inch. He might grow another inch next year. My wife saw him in person for the first time on our trip to Maui and asked, ‘Is that Preston? He’s huge. He takes up the whole elevator.’ ”

Size is one thing, but Taumua’s technique and effort are also the things the college coaches are looking for.

“He runs well for his size,” Say added. “When we do conditioning, we do a lot of running and he and the Rouse brothers (6-5, 210-pound defensive end Logan and 6-4, 275-pound right tackle Max) are always the first in the runs. Some guys smaller then them can’t keep up. Preston has strength and good balance and has good movement off of the ball. He can shuffle right and shuffle left. When he’s blocking, he’s hard to beat.”

Playing with his brother (literally) and brothers (teammates) is a big deal for the big boy who wears jersey No. 68 in forest green and white (and pink in October in honor of breast cancer awareness month).

His older brother, senior Parker Taumua, is a defensive lineman for Na Alii. And, for sure, Preston just can’t seem to ever say enough about many of the others on the roster. If the interview for this story went longer, he probably would have hit every player on the list.

“I’ll call you back and tell you more about them,” he said after getting into the importance of his friendship with a handful of the other boys and how Ezekiel Olie and Jayden Chanel would win the best quarterback/receiver combo award if there was such a thing.

And Taumua proudly detailed what the rest of the offensive linemen mean to him.

“We’ve got three seniors,” Taumua said. “Parker Griep at center, Trace Ader (right guard) is the vocal one who speaks up for everybody. Max is the brains of the line. Whenever we don’t know something, we go to him and he knows what to do. After the seniors, we’ve got (left guard) Ezra Nahoopii-Makakona, who is my right hand man and he’s always there to pick up the slack every time I do something bad. Upu (Howard) is a starter in the same position as Trace, who is injured right now. And one other guy who plays center and guard, Matthew Tulia, is a good all-around player who brings us up when we’re down and makes sure we keep our chill when we need to.”

Giving others credit is Taumua’s modus operandi, or as Say puts it, “He’s the nicest kid. You don’t find too many who are as good as him on the field and as humble as he is.”

An Aiea junior varsity player who got called up to the varsity for the postseason, linebacker Reise Hans-Pickett, found out real quick what it’s like to practice against Taumua.

“He gets into the block really well and you barely have time to react,” Hans-Pickett said. “Then his hands are like vice grips that can punch through your chest. I’m grateful for the opportunity to practice with such a great player, but I don’t like holes in my chest.”

Aiea (9-3) will have one or two games to play before the season is through.
First up is a Saturday game against Konawaena (9-1), the BIIF Division I champion, in the D-I semifinals of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football State Championships.

A win in that one would put Na Alii in the state title game against the winner of Saturday’s other D-I semifinal between Waipahu (10-1) and ‘Iolani (9-0).

“I think we have a strong team,” Taumua said. “I keep telling them that we have to go over there (to the Big Island) and rough them up and let them know how we play over here.”

Interestingly enough, one of Taumua’s career highlights is, you guessed it, about others.

“I was crying,” he said about a 38-30 loss to Waipahu in the OIA D-I championship game. “It was tough. They have a player, Seth Setu. He’s only 5-6, but he’s by far the hardest D-end I’ve ever met. He tried to rush the outside using his speed and used his outside hand to swipe my arm and try to swim move me. The next thing you know, I feel his elbow hitting my rib and then he spins and I got caught. He got me and then got a sack. I had him (previously handled) the whole game. But what I like about him is — as those Waipahu guys were all celebrating and jumping up and down across the field — Seth and (middle linebacker) Romeo (Tagata) came straight to our sideline to shake everybody’s hands.”

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