SUMMERLIN, Nev. » University of Hawaii football player John Hardy-Tuliau’s skills can be framed.
In a Nevada hotel ballroom that has been transformed into the Warriors’ screening room, associate head coach Rich Miano watched, frame by frame, the video of Hardy-Tuliau’s block of a field-goal attempt in UH’s 31-28 victory over Army the past weekend.
Play. Pause. Play. Pause.
"I watched his ‘get off,’ " Miano said, using the football vernacular for a player’s start, "and I’m like, ‘It’s going to be blocked.’ You could just see it from the ‘get off.’ His ‘get off’ is phenomenal. The way he times the snap count, the way he’s first toward the ball … just phenomenal."
Indeed, the freshman’s play has given the coaches reason for pause.
His play also has earned him a special role as a defensive back for Saturday’s road game against Colorado.
"I like everything about him," UH head coach Greg McMackin said. "I like his speed. I like his smarts. He’s tall (5-foot-11), and he’s quick, really quick. He has agility. You name it. He has those qualities."
Now rewind, to more than a year ago, when Tony Tuioti, then in charge of coordinating UH’s recruiting, learned of a trifecta of California players. Hardy-Tuliau and Bubba Poueu-Luna were cousins and high school seniors. Siaki Cravens, who was enrolled at a junior college after transferring from Utah, was their training partner. Through various contacts, each had an interest in playing for the Warriors.
The Warriors have a specific recruiting procedure. The first step is to look at the videos. Tuioti knew of Hardy-Tuliau’s kick-blocking talents. Watching the video, Tuioti recalled thinking: "He’s special."
"He was a legend back in his hometown of Murrieta (Calif.)," UH defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said. "Everybody knows him there."
Aranda made a home visit.
"He has a great family, such strong family support," Aranda said.
In 2009, Hardy-Tuliau blocked 13 kicks, finishing his high school career with 26 blocks.
The coaches watched videos of each block.
"I saw him coming off the edge," Miano said. "I saw how low he could get, which meant he had great hip flexibility; how he accelerated; how he had a knack for going for the block, which takes courage."
Miano coaches the UH secondary, but in reviewing the videos, "I didn’t really have to get to the defensive back stuff. When I did, I could see how he hit people, and his athleticism. But there was so much more to him."
In Hardy-Tuliau’s file, there were transcripts of strong grades. There were letters detailing his volunteer work. McMackin said Hardy-Tuliau was placed near the top of UH’s recruiting board.
"I’m dumbfounded how Pac-10 schools didn’t recruit a kid who’s 5-11, 6 feet; who’s linear; who has great change of direction," Miano said. "His biological father (John Hardy) was an NFL player. I was thinking, do we even have a chance?"
But the Warriors did, and Aranda, who was the point recruiter, recalled: "We were able to make an offer, and he was happy to come on board."
The Warriors also signed Poueu-Luna and Cravens.
This summer, UH implemented a bridge session. The UH recruits were allowed to take two three-credit courses in a session that led to the start of training camp. The session gave the newcomers a jump-start on accumulating credits toward a degree, as well as six weeks to get acclimated to college life.
"I’m really happy here," Hardy-Tuliau said. "I like the people, and the coaches, and the program."
He accomplished his first goal of playing this season. He is a member of three special-teams units, as well as a cornerback. This week, he has been practicing at nickel back.
There was one other bonus. His parents recently moved to Kapolei.
"It’s good to have them out here," Hardy-Tuliau said.