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What's a Big Samoan guy doing in Big Rapids Mich.?
By The GoBlueWolverine Staff
Date: Sep 5, 2005

Michigan high school football has a top defensive lineman imported from American Samoa via Hawaii. He attended the U-M/NIU game Saturday. Is a Wolverine offer to follow?

Neli A'asa is a typical Samoan athlete -- not overall tall, but wide-bodied and powerful. At the Midwest Elite Combine this spring he recorded stats of 6-2, 304 lbs., a 4.94 sec. 40, and an excellent 29.5 inch vertical jump. He also reports a 320 pound bench press.

A'asa has strong football bloodlines, as his uncle, Sulu Petaia, played safety for Colorado in the early 90's (he roomed with 'Hail Mary' Kordell Stewart back in '94 ...).

So what is a Samoan kid doing going to high school in the small Western Michigan town of Big Rapids?

Neli's mother told GoBlueWolverine, "My husband and I are both going to grad school at Ferris State College (located in Big Rapids). We got our undergraduate degrees from the University of Hawaii. And my husband will start Law School next year at Cooley Law School in Lansing."

A'asa has scholarship offers from Colorado, Michigan State and Utah, and he had been listing those three as his favorites before committing to Utah in early August. He attended the All-Polynesian camp in Utah in June, and also camped at Colorado and Michigan State (where he reportedly ran a 5.1 electrically timed 40-yard dash).

In early August he committed to the Utes, where his cousin Bryce Scanlon plays. The fact that the school has a All-Polynesian camp points to the fact that it has a strong Samoan community due to its Morman heritage.

However, A'asa popped up at the Northern Illinois game at the Big House on Saturday. He is a strong enough player that, after a few games, a Michigan offer could well come this fall.

Would he reconsider his Utah commitment if he receives a U-M offer? We'll bring you the word from Neli later today.

As a junior, A'asa recorded 67 tackles, eight sacks, three fumble recoveries, and two forced fumbles for Big Rapids High School. He has a 2.9 GPA and a 1260 SAT.