After a year off, Siasau Matagiese is ready to play
Editor’s Note: This is the third in a five part series profiling the five members of the University of Hawai‘i football team from Kaua‘i. One profile will run each Saturday leading to Hawai‘i’s season opening game against Colorado, Sept. 3.
WHEN JERRY GLANVILLE resigned as Portland State’s head football coach on Nov. 17, 2009, Siasau Matagiese was worried. Glanville was the coach that recruited and installed Matagiese as a focal point of the Vikings defensive line, and with Glanville gone, Matagiese knew there would be massive changes.
Matagiese, a 2009 Waimea High graduate, was fresh off of a freshman season where he made 26 tackles and forced one fumble on the defensive lin, and was named to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team.
Despite his nervousness about a new coaching staff, this early success pushed Matagiese to stay in Portland and give the new regime a shot the following spring.
But things just didn’t work out.
“It was just a big mess,” Matagiese said. “I tried it out and stuck around in the spring, but it was just such a mess that I wanted to be home.”
Matagiese pursued a transfer back home to Hawai‘i to join the Rainbow Warriors. But because he was the slotted starter for the upcoming Vikings season, his transfer request was denied two separate times. The school finally granted his request when he informed the coaching staff that he would sit out if they didn’t let him go. With the request approved, Matagiese finally was able to come back to Hawai‘i in the fall of 2010.
TWO YEARS after being granted his transfer request, Matagiese has finally implemented himself into the Warriors’ plans for the upcoming season.
“He’s a 300-pounder that runs very quick and has a great attitude,” Hawai‘i head coach Greg McMackin said. “He’s going to be a big time player for us.”
Finally getting into the Hawai‘i fold wasn’t as simple as transferring and jumping onto the field at Aloha Stadium in front of thousands of screaming fans. The transfer was the easy part. The tough task was having to sit out a year due to NCAA transfer rules.
In Portland, Matagiese got a lot of playing time and became accustomed to being an integral part of the team. But for the past year, while his Hawai‘i teammates took on teams from around the country, Matagiese was restricted to the practice field where he competed on the scout team.
“It was really tough for me because I can’t just watch a game,” Matagiese said. “It was hard because I knew I couldn’t get in a game. It was tough just to bite my lip and hold on.”
It was trying for Matagiese to be part of a team that he couldn’t help. He wasn’t used to having a situation out of his hands.
What was in his hands was the ability to get better.
During those practices with the scout team and sessions in the weight room, Matagiese’s work ethic caught the eye of coaches and players, including star defensive lineman Vaughn Meatoga — another Kaua‘i native.
“He’s one of the hardest workers that I’ve seen on this team,” Meatoga said. “You never have to tell him to work. You may have to teach him techniques and plays, but you never have to tell him to give the effort.”
Winning Meatoga’s respect goes a long way for Matagiese. Meatoga has started for Hawai‘i since he was a sophomore, was named captain as a junior and this year is looking to parlay a successful season into another WAC title and an NFL career.
Matagiese sees Meatoga not only as a fellow Kauaian, but as someone he can learn a lot from.
“Right now I’m playing right behind him and when I first came in he was the first guy that took me under his wing,” Matagiese said of Meatoga. “He was the one that told me to get ready for this year. He told me to learn stuff then, so that when I come in this year, I know the program already. He said ‘Keep your head up. Get your work in and get better every time.’”
Matagiese followed that advice and continued to work hard during practices and added bulk in the weight room.
WHEN CAMP opened this fall, Matagiese took to the field with a renewed vigor, knowing that his ultimate goal of taking the field at Aloha Stadium is just within reach.
“Having the opportunity to finally play in front of friends and family means everything to me,” he said. “It’s a different feeling when you can look into the stands and see mom and dad. This is compared to Portland, where you look into the stands and see no one.”
And when Matagiese finally takes the field for Hawai’i, despite a lost season, despite being lower on the depth chart than he was in Portland, Matagiese knows that the transfer will be worth it. He knows this because he is finally home.