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Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award Finalists Announced

Honolulu, HI (December 6, 2018) – The Polynesian Football Hall of Fame announced today five Finalists for the Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award.  The Award is presented annually to the most outstanding college football player of Polynesian ancestry that epitomizes great ability and integrity.  University of Oregon and Tennessee Titans Quarterback Marcus Mariota was selected as the inaugural recipient of the Award in 2014, Notre Dame and Baltimore Ravens Offensive Lineman Ronnie Stanley was selected as the recipient in 2015, University of Colorado Quarterback Sefo Liufau was selected as the recipient in 2016, and Washington State University Defensive End Hercules Mata`afa was selected as the recipient in 2017.

The five Finalists for 2018 include DE AJ EPENESA (University of Iowa), DB ALOHI GILMAN (Notre Dame), OL DRU SAMIA (University of Oklahoma), QB TUA TAGOVAILOA (University of Alabama) and WR JOHN URSUA (University of Hawai`i).

The Finalists were selected from a Watch List of more than 50 players by the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee which includes Coaches Dick Tomey (Chairman), Ron McBride and Dick Vermeil, past NFL player and Inaugural Inductee Olin Kreutz, past NFLPA President and Inaugural Inductee Kevin Mawae, former NFL Player and Class of 2015 Inductee Ray Schoenke, NFL player personnel legend Gil Brandt, ESPN Sportscaster Neil Everett, NFL Network writer and commentator Steve Wyche, and Honolulu Sportscaster Robert Kekaula.

“The Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award allows us to showcase the tremendous impact of our Polynesian student-athletes,” said Jesse Sapolu, Chairman and Co-Founder.  “We congratulate the finalists on an incredible season and look forward to celebrating their success.”

The winner of the Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award will be announced on December 13. The formal presentation of the Award will be held at the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame Celebration Dinner (January 18, 2019), along with being recognized during the Polynesian Bowl (January 19, 2019).




AJ EPENESA (University of Iowa)

Defensive End … Sophomore … Samoan Ancestry … Played in 12 games … Two-time Big-Ten Conference Defensive Player of the Week ... 2018 Big-Ten Conference First Team Selection … 35 tackles (20 solo) … 15.5 tackles for loss … 9.5 sacks … Three passes broken up … Three forced fumbles … One fumble recovery … One blocked kick … One defensive touchdown … Born in Oak Park, Kansas.


ALOHI GILMAN (Notre Dame University)

Defensive Back … Junior … Hawaiian Ancestry … Started 12 games … Selected as Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week (November 18) … 76 total tackles (50 solo) … Three tackles for loss … Two forced fumbles … Two interceptions … Two QB hurries … Five passes broken up … Born in Lāʻie, Hawai`i.


DRU SAMIA (University of Oklahoma)

Offensive Lineman … Senior… Samoan Ancestry … Started 13 games … Named Big 12 Conference Offensive Lineman of the Year … 2018 Big 12 Conference First Team Selection … Oklahoma leads the nation with 11.6 yards per pass attempt and ranks second by averaging 6.7 yards per rush … Born in Sacramento, California.


TUA TAGOVAILOA (University of Alabama)

Quarterback … Sophomore… Samoan Ancestry … Started 12 games … Heisman Trophy Finalist … Maxwell Award Finalist (college football’s top player) … 2018 SEC Conference First Team Selection … Ranks second nationally with a 202.3 passer efficiency rating … 3,353 passing yards (11.4 yards per attempt average) … 37 touchdown passes … Five rushing touchdowns … Born in ʻEwa Beach, Hawai`i


JOHN URSUA (University of Hawai'i)

Wide Receiver … Junior … Hawaiian Ancestry … Started 13 games … Biletnikoff Award Semifinalist … 2018 Mountain West Conference First Team Selection … Caught 89 passes for 1,342 yards and 16 touchdowns … One rushing touchdown … National leader in touchdown receptions … Fifth Nationally in receiving yards and total touchdowns (17) … Born in Kailua-Kona, Hawai`i.