When Naki Tuakoi received his first offer SEC offer from Tennessee football, he had to learn how different the culture is on Rocky Top. Hailing from Oakland, Calif., football isn’t at the forefront for many there.
“It’s something I’m going to have to get used to for sure, completely different cultures,” Tuakoi said. “Out here our kids are just trying to survive.”
Once Tuakoi started getting a lot of college attention, he realized the difference in culture from his hometown to other places, like the southeast.
“We aren’t where other places are when it comes to football culture so it was different for me,” he told. “I’m just barely learning about all of this.”
Teams in Oakland can barely field football teams, while schools in the south have no issue fielding 50 or 60-person teams.
“Kids are getting caught up in the streets,” Tuakoi said. “When I went to Southern California, I seen how invested they are in football, and it shows with how many kids get recruited.”
Tennessee football extended Tuakoi a scholarship offer on Wednesday. New offensive coordinator Joey Halzle and analyst Aaron Amaama have been very involved with his recruitment.
“I’m just blessed that they believe in me,” he said.
He also holds offers from over 10 other D1 schools, primarily located on the west coast.
“It’s a blessing,” Tuakoi said about the college attention he’s been gathering. “To have that kind of exposure come to our area is huge for us.”
Tuakoi said that Oregon, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Southern Calif., Utah, Arizona, and Cal have been in contact with him the most.
Tennessee didn’t have to do very much to get the attention of the 6-foot-3, 200-pound athlete.
“I’m definitely interested in Tennessee because they play in the SEC and they’ve put out a lot of NFL players,” Tuakoi said. “That’s my goal. I want to go to a school that can develop me for the NFL.”
The SEC obviously caught Tuakoi’s eye. The linebacker wants to play in the toughest conference in football.
“I like how they play in the toughest conference so the level of competition is something that stands out about them,” he said. “They did really good this season as well.”
Tuakoi plans to take his time in his recruitment. Although he doesn’t hold a 247Composite ranking yet, the site holds him as a three-star prospect and the No. 29 linebacker in his class.
As the buzz grows around Tuakoi, he hopes to bring more attention to his hometown.
“(The attention) means a lot for us,” he said. “Everyone knows Beastmode (Marshawn Lynch) but there is a lot more ballers that will be coming out of Oakland. Proud to be from Oakland”