The University of Hawaii wasn’t originally where defensive tackle Siasau “Saui” Matagiese committed to, but it is where he ended up.
After graduating from Waimea High School in 2009, Matagiese left the Islands to play for the Portland State Vikings under former NFL coach Jerry Glanville.
In his freshman season with Portland State, Matagiese played in 10 games, made 26 tackles and forced a fumble.
Off the field, Matagiese made the academic all-Big Sky team.
But his time was short lived in Portland.
When Glanville’s contract was bought out by Portland State in November of 2009, the Viking coaching staff saw a dramatic change that made Matagiese want to transfer.
In the fall of 2010, Matagiese transferred to the UH, and went through the process of walking on with the Warriors.
Three year’s later, Matagiese is more than just a walk-on.
At 6-2, 300 pounds, Matagiese is a senior, a captain and on full scholarship after head coach Norm Chow awarded him those honors in the spring of 2012.
Matagiese has played in 31 games for Hawaii and is in his final season with the squad.
When asked to describe his decision to transfer from Portland State to play for Hawaii, Matgiese said it was “the best decision of my life.”
With the Warrior football season in full swing, the Garden Island caught up with the former Menehune.
TGI: When did you start playing football?
Siasau: My first year playing football was my freshman year of high school but I really never actually started playing until my junior year.
My freshman year was the first time I ever played football so I was pretty much learning what football even was. My sophomore year I got hurt the first game and I was out for the season. So it wasn’t until my junior year that really I played a full season.
TGI: Did you play another sport before?
Siasau: I was a baseball player my whole life. I played first base, third base and outfield.
TGI: What made you switch to football?
Siasau: It was a sport I always wanted to play. I couldn’t play Pop Warner because they had the whole weight issue and everything, so I just played baseball my whole life. When I got into high school I finally got the chance to actually play football and weight didn’t matter.
TGI: What do you love about football?
Siasau: The game in itself and what it teaches you. It really teaches you how to bounce back from adversity, that’s my favorite thing about the game that I take away. There’s anything that can happen on the field and just being able to come back and bounce back from it, it really teaches you and helps you out in life as well. But besides that, I think my favorite thing is hitting people without getting arrested.
TGI: At what age did you see playing college football become a possibility?
Siasau: It wasn’t until the ending of my junior year, going into my senior year. I never really looked at college football, like I was going to go. It was never something that a lot of people really showed us that was possible, except for Jordon Dizon, who came from my high school. I would travel to Oahu for camps and Maui for football camps and what not, but it really wasn’t until my senior year that I saw college as a real possibility.
TGI: Who do you credit for your success both on and off the field?
Siasau: The first person I would like to credit is God, have to always be sure to give credit where credit is due. After that I would have to credit my whole family, for being behind me even when things are hard, especially my mom for never letting me quit. And my dad for teaching us lessons from his mistakes. If he didn’t make those mistakes in his life then who’s to say it wouldn’t have been me or one of my siblings.
TGI: What’s your most memorable moment on the field?
Siasau: I would say the day I received my scholarship at the UH after walking-on and my first start at USC last season.
TGI: What’s your most memorable moment off the field?
Siasau: My most memorable moment off the field is when I found out my twin sisters got accepted into college cause it was just this past year.
TGI: Can you describe what it’s like to wear that University of Hawaii jersey?
Siasau: It means everything to me. I played at Portland and what not, and to come home, it means a lot, it’s a community that I was born and I was raised in. All the people and when I think of where I play for, it’s always on my chest and also on the back of my jersey. For me, playing for Hawaii, it just gives me that pride to never want to lose, or never want to give that message to stay down.
TGI: How do you think growing up on Kauai has made you into the person and player you are today?
Siasau: It has made me into everything I am, I think. Coming from a small place, you know, you always got to prove people wrong. Not in regards to my size and everything, but I always had to prove to guys, prove more to myself and prove more to everyone else that great players do come from the outer islands. I know we hardly hear about that great players, that exchange, from Kauai or even the Big Island or all the other islands. Just coming from a small place I always had to prove myself to everybody. It pretty much built my work ethic, it always kept me grounded, where I came from, where I started and the people who started with me.
TGI: What do you miss the most about Kauai?
Siasau: Just the whole country life. Slow pace of life. No traffic, family everywhere and just all the outdoor things. But mostly the beaches.
TGI: What motivates you on the field and in everyday life?
Siasau: I got to say my parents and my sisters, my siblings, and the rest of my family. For them to be able to watch the game on Saturdays and to say, ‘that’s my son’ or ‘that’s my brother,’ that really means a lot to me. I carry that with a lot of responsibility.
TGI: What do you see yourself doing?
Siasau: I always tell everyone about already living out my dreams playing college football for the state that I love. And if football is in my future, I don’t know. If it comes, it comes, if it doesn’t, I’m perfectly fine with that.
TGI: What is your dream job?
Siasau: I would say anything that helps people. Like either a firefighter or a counselor. Or maybe even college coaching if I ever decide to get into that. For me it was always giving back to people, helping out.