How OSU landed 295-pound tackle Nuku Mafi despite late push from other teams

How OSU landed 295-pound tackle Nuku Mafi despite late push from other teams

Three-star left tackle Nuku Mafi garnered heavy interest from other schools late on the recruiting trail but stayed true to OSU. Mafi is the latest in a line of promising Polynesian players coming to Stillwater.

Sam Hutchens

By Sam Hutchens

| Jan 10, 2024, 12:00pm CST

Sam Hutchens

By Sam Hutchens

Jan 10, 2024, 12:00pm CST

STILLWATER — In Nuku Mafi’s recruiting battle, other teams pushed him but never swayed him.

That’s a good sign for an offensive lineman.

“USC is pushing hard on him, everybody is pushing on him, but he loves Oklahoma State,” said Olosaa Solovi, Mafi’s coach at West High in Salt Lake City, Utah, before early signing day on Dec. 20.

Mafi, a three-star offensive lineman with offers from schools including BYU, Utah, Tennessee, signed with OSU on national signing day. He is next up in a successful recent string of Polynesian Cowboys and was another recruiting for OSU in Utah.

Solovi has a pretty good understanding of why the 6-foot-5, 295-pound Mafi was pressured to flip.

“Nuku is super athletic,” Solovi said. “He’s really barely touching his potential right now. You’re really going to see that. I can honestly see him as an early contributor. He understands what the deal is, and that he’s going to have to work for it, but he just finds a way on that field.”

More simply?

“Nuku was a monster,” Solovi said.

The Cowboys had another commit pledged from West’s offensive line in Semisi Tonga. Also a three-star prospect, Tonga flipped to Arizona State before signing day. Mafi and Tonga are close friends and took their recruiting visit together. 

In his signing day press conference, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy acknowledged Mafi’s loyalty.

“(Mafi) was loyal to us, you know, his partner went to another school… they were beating up on (Mafi) pretty good there in the last couple of weeks, but he stayed with us,” coach Mike Gundy said.

OSU has benefitted from a recent history of Polynesian players. This season it was defensive end Nathan Latu, who had three sacks. In 2022, linebacker Mason Cobb and defensive lineman Sione Asi were key contributors. When OSU won the Fiesta Bowl in 2021, running back Jaylen Warren was a star.

OSU’s strength in recruiting West High, and the West Coast in general, is its personnel on staff. 

“(Director of recruiting) Todd Bradford has got a lot of ties back in that area and knows all those people and so we have connections there,” Gundy said. “(Player Development Specialist) Beni Tonga, on our staff, has a lot of connections there through the church. And then obviously with Beni, he has a lot of family connections there and that stuff runs deep.”

Mafi is tied as OSU’s top-ranked recruit on the offensive line in the 2023 class, per 24/7 Sports. His blue-collar, family-oriented upbringing played a role in his college choice.

“A lot of what Stillwater brought appealed to his family,” Solovi said. “What they are looking for and what they want for their son. They want him to play at a place where it’s safe and where school, football and family are important.”

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Sam Hutchens covers Oklahoma State sport for Sellout Crowd. He interned for The Stillwater News Press in 2021 and The Guthrie News Leader in 2022, where he won a first-place OPA award for in-depth reporting. He has also covered sports in southwest Oklahoma for The Lawton Constitution. He strives to tell you the OSU sports stories that you want to tell your friends about. You can email him at [email protected] and connect on Twitter (X) @Sam_Hutchens_

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