KAPA‘A — After winning the KIF championship as a member of the Kapa‘a Warriors and being named to the KIF All-Star team late last year, Kapa‘a center Austyn Pagtolingan knew he wasn’t ready to end his football career.
Following Wednesday afternoon, Pagtolingan will get to play at least four more years of it.
Pagtolingan signed a letter of intent to play football for Peru State College in Peru, Neb., Wednesday afternoon in the Kapa‘a High School gym. Surrounded by family, friends and coaches, Pagtolingan agreed to a full-ride scholarship at the school which participated at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics level.
“I wanted to continue after the high school season. Spending four years with all of these guys, it was a shock when it ended,” Pagtolingan said. “I want to see what can happen over the next four years.”
Pagtolingan said the Bobcats enticed him with the chance of playing right away. Currently the Bobcats have a senior slated to start at center, but Pagtolingan said the coaching staff said he will compete for that position.
“The coach was telling me I have a chance to start over the current center,” he said. “He said he wants to get me out there as soon as he can.”
Pagtolingan spent the past football season anchoring the offensive line for the run-happy Kapa‘a Warriors. To have a big, intelligent body up the middle was pivotal for head coach Keli‘i Morgado’s offense.
“Our offensive line started out shaky this season but really dominated in the latter half and he’s the leader,” Morgado said. “The center touches the ball more than the quarterback. It’s an immense responsibility.”
Pagtolingan said he’s never been to Nebraska, and the thought of spending his college career far from home seemed daunting at first. Morgado said that’s a trend among Kaua‘i’s football prospects.
“Initially local kids are gun shy to go that far away from home,” he said. “But a college education is not cheap.”
That lure of a full-ride scholarship to play football was too much to pass up for Pagtolingan.
“At first I was nervous because it’s my first time doing something like this,” Pagtolingan said. “It’s far away from home, but to continue on to football and college with a free education is pretty amazing. I’m really appreciating it.”
Pagtolingan said he isn’t sure what he’ll study at Peru College yet, but said initially he’s leaning toward something in the art field.
As for hitting the gridiron for the first time as a college athlete, Pagtolingan said it’s something he’s been dreaming of his whole life.
“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the experiences of college and football for the next couple of years. There are challenges ahead, and I think I’m ready to get out there.”
• Tyson Alger, sports writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or by emailing talger@ thegardenisland.com. Follow him on twitter.com/tysonalger.