GPA camp going strong for a decade, showcases top Hawai’i high school athletes

BY MICHAEL LASQUERO | HSRN
PUBLISHED JUNE 9, 2024

HONOLULU — One of the top prep football camp on the islands is still going strong after 10 years.

The Gridiron Performance Academy held its 10th annual combine and showcase with multiple college coaches in attendance with an all-day event Saturday on the campus of Saint Louis School.

Instead of athletes having to fly up to the mainland to get exposure and recruited, the GPA camp brings scouts and coaches down to Hawai’i in a consolidated location for everyone to get looked at and evaluated.

“That’s a good thing that they’re doing. We live on a rock so it’s hard to get exposure,” said Mililani senior running back Nakoa Kahana-Travis. “It’s just a good thing that they’re coming down here to check us out.”

Current NFL players and Saint Louis alumni like Miami Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa and the Pittsburgh Steeler’s Nick Herbig have all participated in the camp in the past.

“Been a decade, hard to believe that, but when I start thinking back to Tua Tagovailoa, Herbig and all those guys that came through GPA and to see it continue here today, a lot of hard work, my wife (Lori), my partners Jesse Sapolu and Galu Tagovailoa, they’ve done a great job of make this a success,” said camp organizer Rich Miano.

One thing that Miano was most proud of was having the ability to provide a way for student-athletes to attend the camp for free — especially those affected by the Maui fires in Aug. 2023 — through the sponsorships of Southwest Airlines, Cutter Mazda of Honolulu, the Tua Foundation and the Motiv8 Foundation. 

“What happened in Maui, we all want to be a part of healing, and for Southwest to have 25 round trip tickets, to have Cutter automotive group have 50 scholarships (to attend the camp), and then you look at the Tua Foundation with two scholarships to every school in Hawai’i, we got guys from Lana’i, we got guys from Moloka’i, we got guys from every island. You look at Motiv8, same thing,” Miano said.

NCAA recruiting rules prevented Division I FBS coaches from attending the camp, but over a dozen coaches from the Division II, Division III and the NAIA were in attendance such as Lindfield, Pacific and Olivet Nazarene University, and we’re able to scout and even handout scholarship offers to come play for their program.

“Not a lot of people can get the D1 opportunity so it’s good that these small schools are here,” said Mililani senior receiver Lehiwa Kahana-Travis.

The college coaches also made sure to emphasize that being a student comes first if you want to play on the next level.

“Academics is a big factor in this process,” said Nakoa Kahana-Travis. “These colleges come down and they ask for your grades, that’s the first thing they come up to you and talk to you about.”

In addition to the position group showcases and getting coached up by other local high school coaches, the GPA camp also has a combine element and classes where student-athletes and their families can get educated on various elements of recruiting.

“We continue to try every year (to have) the combine, which is tough to do logistically,” said Miano. “We’re also doing the classrooms where we’re doing financial planning with Lisa Sapolu and Diane Tagovailoa, and we have college coaches talk about recruiting and the science of FAFSA, so all this whole recruiting thing is an exact science and it continues to change so there fore we need to make sure our people have knowledge. Our parents, the mentors, the coaches here in Hawai’i, so we really put our big emphasis on the recruiting aspect of it and trying to navigate that.”

Defensive Line MVPs
Julian Scanlan — Castle
Shaden Niu — Kahuku
Zaden Mariteragi — Farrington
Vincent Tautua — Saint Louis

Offensive Line MVPs
Trytin Ellis-Navares — Saint Louis
Pa’u Spencer — Kamehameha-Maui
Matai Malufau — Kahuku
Rob Crowell — Saint Louis
Efren Siuloa — Kahuku