Due to the nature of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, any given player that competed in the 2020 NCAA football season would be able to return in 2021 with extended eligibility.
To Hawaii offensive lineman Taaga Tuulima, it was time to move on. After entering the program as a walk-on, the redshirt senior exits having started the last three seasons at center. Tuulima also excelled in the classroom, receiving a degree in mechanical engineering while earning All-Academic Mountain West honors three times.
“I’m pretty satisfied,” Tuulima told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello of his college career. “I mean, I wish we I wish we had another shot at a Mountain West Conference championship. But other than that, I’m really grateful for my time over there. I’m really grateful for my opportunities, those lifelong friendships and relationships I’ve been able to make and I’m just grateful for all the memories at UH.
“After talking to my family and my coaches, it was pretty much an absolute decision after this past season I’d be declaring and I’d just be done with school.”
The next step of Tuulima’s football career takes place at the 2021 Hula Bowl on Jan. 31 at Aloha Stadium, where he hopes to impress the pro scouts watching.
“I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity that coach Rich Miano has given me. I’m especially grateful that it’s from the state of Hawaii, we get to play at my home where I was born and raised,” Tuulima said. “I’m thankful for the opportunity the state of Hawaii has given me and I just hope I can give back.
“I feel like I’ve been not looked down but kind of like passed over going from high school to college. I wasn’t fortunate enough to have a full scholarship going into UH but I was given an opportunity that I’m extremely grateful for. Going into this draft, I’m just excited to prove myself essentially and prove myself to the scouts, to all the NFL teams that I can compete with the best.”
Kickoff for the 2021 Hula Bowl is set for 2 p.m., and it could very fell be the final football game played at Aloha Stadium. Fans will not be allowed to attend. Tuulima joins receiver Rico Bussey as members of the Hawaii football team selected to the game.