Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2022

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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2022 FOOTBALL RECRUITING ISSUE BY MIKE SINGER Going to a private, Catholic high school such as Bishop Ale- many, committing to USC before re- opening his recruit- ment and commit- ting to Notre Dame a few months later, it's clear that excel- ling the classroom is highly valued by Ni- uafe Tuihalamaka. "Academics are really important to me and my family," he said. "I was also looking at going to Stanford before I picked Notre Dame. Education was the first thing I looked at in a school. Notre Dame had the best of both worlds for me in football and school." Tuihalamaka took Advanced Place- ment classes and nearly aced all of them as a senior before enrolling at Notre Dame in January. Graduating a semester early was another impressive feat that Tuihalamaka accomplished. The four-star recruit balanced his rig- orous academic workload with also being a highly touted, All-American recruit. "For my AP stats class, we liter- ally had a quiz every day, so it would be hectic thinking about my next quiz and having practice after right after," Tuihalamaka added. "It's a struggle, but you get used to it." At 6-2, 229 pounds, Tuihalamaka is an imposing figure and looks born to play the linebacker position. He had to break the stigma of be- ing looked at as just the big-time foot- ball player in high school. Tuihalamaka is also quite the im- pressive student. "No one really thought I'd take AP classes, even my- self," he said. "I didn't even think I could do it, but I pushed myself." Tuihalamaka told Blue & Gold Illus- trated that he would be pursuing a degree within the Mendoza College of Business at Notre Dame. He is one of four Notre Dame line- backer signees in the 2022 class, all of whom enrolled early in January. "The future is bright for us, especially having versatile players such as Josh, Nolan and Jaylen," Tuihalamaka said, humbly omitting himself. "Being able to play with those guys, understanding how their abilities are different from mine and being able to learn from them, and they are learning from me." ✦ Niuafe Tuihalamaka Accelerated His Performance Tuihalamaka, who was named the Los Angeles News' Defensive Player of the Year in 2021, is a key part of a star-studded group of signees at linebacker for the Irish. PHOTO BY MIKE SINGER NIUAFE TUIHALAMAKA LINEBACKER 6-2 · 229 BISHOP ALEMANY H.S. GRANADA HILLS, CALIF. RANKINGS STARS NAT. POS. STATE consensus ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ 208 18 16 ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ — 39 29 ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ 94 4 5 ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ 204 8 13 ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ 188 14 13 STATISTICS • Notched 124 tackles, 22 stops for loss, five sacks, three quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles during his 12-game senior season. • Posted 65 stops, seven tackles for loss and eight quarterback hurries as a sophomore in 2019. NOTABLE • Born on Sept. 28, 2002. • 2022 All-American Bowl participant. • 2022 Polynesian Bowl participant. • 2021 MaxPreps California All-State first-team defense. • 2021 MaxPreps California All-State first-team defense (for shortened spring season). • 2021 Los Angeles News Defensive Player of the Year. • 2021 Mission League's Defensive Player of the Year. • 2021 High School Butkus Award semifinalist. • High school head coach was Casey Clausen, the older brother of former Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen. RECRUITMENT • Committed to Notre Dame on June 19, 2021. • Was committed to USC but backed off his pledge to the Trojans two days after Notre Dame offered. • Took an official visit to Texas but picked the Irish a couple weeks later. • Recruited by Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman and former special teams coordinator Brian Polian. • Both visits to Notre Dame were for officials, coming in June 2021 and December 2021. 2022 PROJECTION • Tuihalamaka is likely to redshirt as a true freshman. THEY SAID IT Bishop Alemany head coach Casey Clausen: "He's a great kid, number one. He's one of the faces of our program. When we got the job at Alemany a few years ago, he was coming in as a freshman and started on varsity. He has a great work ethic and comes from a great family. "The biggest thing he brings is his speed for his size. He has the ability to play in the box and stop the run but can also line up in the slot against re- ceivers and tight ends and lock people down. He's a tremendous kid. I think he'll be a pretty big factor early on in his career at Notre Dame." National recruiting analyst Tom Lemming: "Tui- halamaka is a well-built linebacker who plays the game like it should be played — all out on every play. He shows very good running speed at the inside linebacker position and is a big hitter. I'm impressed with his quick hands and lateral speed. "A defender who refuses to stay blocked, Tui- halamaka always seems to be around the ball. He's no doubt the No. 1 inside linebacker prospect on the West Coast. He's a team leader and has the instincts and brings to become a dominating inside linebacker at the next level." 72 MARCH 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED

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