Nevada tight end Moliki Matavao released his final six schools today. The Georgia Bulldogs made the cut. It was expected despite not having been on campus at UGA since the summer of 2019.
The 6-foot-6.5 prospect still has Georgia on his mind, but he had an interesting answer to a recent question that stands out, too.
Matavao’s day-to-day life, like most Americans, has been impacted greatly over the last six weeks. What’s the one thing he would do if our world didn’t have the restrictions and caution tape around it?
“Shoot, that would be playing some football with my teammates man,” he said. “Spring football! Playing football right now. That’s what I miss the most.”
That answer says as much about Matavao as any top schools list. He released those moments ago via social media on his Twitter account.
- Penn State
“Those are the ones I will be visiting whenever this opens up and if it doesn’t open up I plan on pretty much committing either in May or June,” he said.
At the moment, he plans to take five officials and one unofficial from among those options. Could the January 2021 early enrollee make that choice now?
“I have a good feel for a few of the schools,” he said. “I would like to visit them and take my officials and visit them again. But if that’s not until let’s say September when I can visit, well I kind of want to relieve some stress off of me. If I feel confident enough to make the right decision, then I will.”
The nation’s No. 4 TE (247Sports Composite) has plotted an admirable path after that.
“If it is the school that I am committed to, then I will definitely take the official visit but that will be it,” Matavao said. “Once I am committed, my word will be out there. I really don’t want to go against my word.”
His commitment will mean exactly that.
“That’s just kind of how I was raised,” Matavao said. “That’s my word and I’m giving my all to that school if I do commit.”
He’s planning for contingencies, including continued restrictions on college visits in June or July.
“If it extends into my senior year, then I just kind of want to play football,” he said. “I want to have fun and soak up the game I love playing. If that’s committing in June or July without making my visits, then that is it. Whatever I feel I am comfortable with it having everything that I have learned and my own research and all and I’m confident in making the decision I am 100 percent committed to, then I will make it. I will make that commitment even without those visits.”
The range here seems like anywhere from May to June to July. He just wants to make his decision in advance of his senior year. It will allow him to relax and disconnect from the pressures and constant recruiting that he’s been carrying with his college decision.
The phonetics of his name go like this: MO-LI-KEE MA-TA-VOW
How college football recruits Moliki Matavao these days
Matavao and his family have some roots in Georgia, too. Location is not going to be a factor. Not even in the age of COVID-19.
His grandfather was stationed at Fort Stewart near Hinesville. It meant his father grew up playing varsity sports at Liberty County High School. It means that his grandmother, along with two of his uncles, still lives in Hinesville.
“Distance has never really been a factor for me,” Matavao said. “I would love to have my parents at every game but I know what’s best for them and they know what’s best for me. If they think my school choice is the right fit for me, then they will make their sacrifices the same way I will make my sacrifices in not being able to see them as much.”
Geography does not fall in with his core criteria.
“If I fit in that right program and that program will develop me the way I want to be developed and gives me the education I want, then I will go wherever,” he said. “It is more here than just the football aspect.”
Count Matavao among the many who are being recruited harder and with more intensity than any recruiting class will lever see. The top 150 players like Matavao now get recruited like 5-stars during the quarantine.
“I for sure feel it,” he said. “A lot of coaches hitting you up every day. Probably around a hundred texts every day. Four to seven phone calls or Zoom calls or FaceTimes. Every day. I’m for sure feeling it.”
Coaches call. And call some more. Most of his interaction is via voice calls for Zoom video chats.
The recruiters that think they are slick will challenge him in the new “Call of Duty” or “Madden” video games. But a lot of coaches call that play, too.
“I have a few coaches I have played ‘Call of Duty: Warzone’ with but I’ve also played I think coaches three times now in Madden,” he said. “I beat one of them and now he wants a rematch. It is pretty fun playing that with the coaches.”
He caught 47 passes for 730 yards and seven touchdowns in 2019. The athletic tight end ripped off an 80-yard touchdown catch among those grabs. He believes in tight ends.
That’s why he dials up a heavy play call sheet of “12” and “13” personnel and attack with the tight ends all day on those “Madden” video games.
He never expected to be playing video games as part of his daily recruiting chats.
“Some of it is kind of long,” he said. “After school and workouts and super long days, then I am tired after the third or fourth call. But I just stick through it because I can’t visit anywhere so I need to see everything that I want to and really take it all in. A lot of it is good. Everyone means well and I enjoy being able to talk and take in everything that I really need to take in.”
How Moliki Matavao really feels about UGA
He has not played Georgia’s Todd Hartley in those games. That relationship isn’t set up like that.
When Hartley was in Las Vegas to check on 5-star signee Darnell Washington in the 2020 class, he was able to keep tabs on Matavao. He said he saw Hartley at almost all of his home basketball games last November and December.
Matavao had planned to visit Georgia back in April. That got shelved with everything else for Americans. It means his last visit to Athens was in the summer of 2019.
Why did UGA still make the cut?
“Just the relationship I have built with coach Hartley,” he said. “I really enjoy it. I’ve sat in a lot of meetings now with [new offensive coordinator] coach [Todd] Monken. Watching coach Monken’s offense work and I can totally see myself fitting in that offense. That’s pretty much really why I love Georgia.”
The state champion from Nevada feels Hartley has an uncommon approach.
“It is definitely different how he recruits me,” Matavao said. “It is good to have him recruit me how he is. He’s so much a very personal guy. So are other recruiters, but he opens up a lot. He’s a family-oriented guy. He shows me how he grills out with his family. He shows me clips of his son playing baseball. Just trying to show me he is a family guy.”
“If I do go to Georgia moving 2,000 miles away, it shows me I will have a family place there and a family guy I can be around. He’s basically showing me a home away from home type feel.”
He keyed in on the clips of how Monken used Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard in 2018 with the Tampa Bay Bucs. Brate and Howard combined for 64 catches, 854 yards and 11 touchdowns. Howard is the well-known pro, but Brate actually caught six of those touchdowns.
“I see myself as both an O.J. Howard and a Cameron Brate,” he said. “Getting it gritty down on the line. Win in the trenches and also separation and getting it deep and stretching the field kind of like what O.J. is about at that level. I can see myself in that offense fitting perfectly. Being in an ’11’ or ’12’ or ’13’ personnel set is something that I can see in that offense.”
Those three sets apply to formations with one running back and one, two and three tight ends in the package, respectively. The 235-pound Matavao still feels Georgia will only take one tight end for this class.
It seems like 4-star Brock Bowers and Matavao are Hartley’s top choices at tight end for the 2021 cycle. Bowers is the nation’s no. 3 TE and the No. 101 overall prospect nationally on the 247Sports Composite, too.
Matavao said he will not let a “first one to choose” situation alter where he’s at with his decision. He will follow his personal timetable.
“My view of all of this is where I am going to be developed and where I am going to perform,” Matavao said. “It is more about what’s within that college and that program rather than any outside factors to me if that makes sense. That’s how I look at it.”
Moliki Matavao: How COVID-19 has affected his training
If you hadn’t gotten the hint yet, this Matavao fella is a focused dude. He continues to get in his full weight sets days. Backs and shoulders. Legs. Followed by conditioning and sprints.
“Still getting after it,” Matavao said.
He’ll wake up at 8 a.m. and then lift. His day moves on from there to returning home for schoolwork and chores around the house. It is field work and conditioning after that. There is a consistency to each day, including the same bedtime. The routine matters to him.
His COVID-19 snapshot still allows for some throw and catch time. Matavao will get on the field with friends he feels have been behaving responsibly during the quarantine.
“Nevada is still pretty lenient,” Matavao said. “Our governor has us still pretty much social distancing but I know the people I am with. I trust them all. We are making sure we are in small groups and not big groups or anything. But we also want to get after it and win every day.”
That sort of mentality allowed Matavao and his Liberty High (Henderson, Nev.) teammates to pull off their version of amazing last fall. His Patriots started off on a five-game losing streak but went on to knock off national power Bishop Gorman in the playoffs.
Gorman had won the last 10 state titles out of their playing classification in Nevada. Matavao and his team advanced past that juggernaut en route to the first state championship in program history.
He feels he’s pretty close to the player he would have been through training if not for the global pandemic.
“I’d say the only thing I’m lacking is some teammates chemistry,” he said. “I’m right at where I want to be. Feeling stronger and faster right now. I’m not taking this as a negative. I’m taking everything as a positive. Just doing what I can.”
He plans to go into real estate upon completion of his college business degree. Check out his junior tape below.
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