All eyes in the high school football scene turn to Beaverton, Ore. in mid-July. The Opening is held at Nike Headquarters and brings in the top high school football prospects in the country. Each participant had to prove himself at one of the 14 regional tournaments held throughout the spring. If they “get open” and earn an invitation, they spend a week in Beaverton, working with former college and pro football players to sharpen their skills. The weekend concludes with a 7-on-7 tournament and big man competition.
Arizona has been well-represented in recent years, but there was just one player from The Grand Canyon State in 2016: Mountain Pointe safety Isaiah Pola-Mao. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound, four-star recruit is a household name in Arizona high school football circles. He’s been a star since his sophomore year and is the nephew of Steelers great Troy Polamalu.
But you never really know how these guys will fare when they step against the nation’s best.
— 〰SIMBA〰 (@Isaiah_Pola_Mao) June 8, 2016
To put it simply, Pola-Mao was an absolute headache for opposing offenses. He had three interceptions in his first three games, one returned for a touchdown, and his awareness and athleticism were on full display all day as he broke up pass after pass. Scout insiders Greg Biggins and Brandon Huffman both said he has the ability to play safety or linebacker at the next level depending on how much he bulks up over the next few years, and they love the athlete they see in front of them.
Now comes the question of where he will end up.
Pola-Mao said he isn’t rushing his decision. He holds offers from most of the Pac-12, as well as BYU, Nebraska and Notre Dame, and he is going to take his visits throughout the season. He did say the two schools pursuing him the hardest at this time were Arizona State and Washington.
Either way, the state of Arizona continues to solidify itself as a football state. While there may not have been much Arizona representation at The Opening in terms of quantity, Pola-Mao was a constant reminder of what the state can do on the gridiron.