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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 11:37 p.m., Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Elite JC defensive end latest Warrior

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

By Stephen Tsai

Advertiser Staff Writer

An All-America junior college defensive end has accepted a football scholarship offer from the University of Hawai'i.

After consulting with his family last night, Chris Leatigaga of Foothill College in Los Altos, Calif., said he agreed to join the Warriors for the 2007 season.

Leatigaga will earn an associate degree in March — Foothill is on a quarters schedule — and have three years to play two seasons for the Warriors.

"I can't wait to get out there," Leatigaga said. "I've got family out there. I'm Polynesian, and that's a big Polynesian school. I'm going to feel right at home. I'm going to enjoy living there for the next two or three years. It's a comfortable place for me."

Leatigaga, who is 6 feet 5 and 260 pounds, was named to the All-California first team.

There are 72 community college football teams in California, and being named to the All-California team earns the distinction as an All-America player.

Leatigaga was a multi-sport athlete at Independence High School in San Jose, Calif..

After attracting limited interest from Division I-A programs, he opted to attend Foothills, a football powerhouse.

This year, Foothill capped a 10-1 season with a victory in the 2006 Silicon Valley Bowl. Foothill was declared the Northern California champion.

Leatigaga said he went on the Warriors' radar when UH defensive line coach Jeff Reinebold was recruiting another Bay Area player.

"Reinebold was watching the other guy's tapes when he noticed me," Leatigaga said. "Reinebold called my coach and said I caught his eye."

Leatigaga said Reinebold visited his home two weeks ago. "We talked, and he said he was going to make me an offer," Leatigaga said. "I like (Reinebold). He's a good guy."

Leatigaga said he has several relatives in Hawai'i, including his sister and newborn niece.

"I really want to be close to them," he said.

He also will be reunited with several members of the First Congressional Christian Church.

He said his introduction to sports was through church leagues.

Leatigaga will help boost a defense that is losing its starting defensive ends. Melila Purcell III and Ikaika Alama-Francis complete their UH eligibility following Sunday's Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl.

Earlier, the Warriors received verbal commitments from running back Leon Jackson, who played as a freshman at Nebraska in 2005; running back/slotback Gabe Tuata of Kealakehe; defensive lineman Vaughn Meatoga of Kamehameha Schools; safety Erik Robinson of Navarro Junior College in Texas; and linebacker Kevin Konrath of Brothers Rice High in Chicago.

Robinson is expected to enroll at UH in January.

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.