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Six Utes Named To 2022 Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Watch List

Aug 18, 2022

HONOLULU, Hawaii – Six University of Utah Football student-athletes have been named to the 2022 Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award Watch List today with the list including Sataoa Laumea, Malone Mataele, Johnny Maea, Tennessee Pututau, Junior Tafuna and Devaughn Vele.

The Polynesian Football Hall of Fame presents the award annually to the most outstanding college football player of Polynesian ancestry that epitomizes great ability and integrity.

The watch list is composed of 85 players from 43 different FBS schools. Five finalists will be unveiled in December with the winner being announced on Dec. 15.

Laumea and Maea will be entering their sophomore and junior years, respectively with Laumea playing in 19 career games with 18 starts while Maea has recorded 17 games as a Ute. Laumea is a two-time All-Pac-12 offensive lineman, earning second-team in 2020.

Mataele has seen action in 26 career games for the Utes, starting at nickel back in seven. In 2021, he logged 28 tackles (2.5 TFL), two pass breakups and a key interception during the Pac-12 Championship game vs. No. 10 Oregon.

Pututau and Tafuna were both mainstays on the defensive line in 2021, playing in nine and 13 games, respectively. Tafuna earned Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year after starting in 11 games last season, recording 33 tackles (5.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks), a fumble recovery and a pass breakup.

Vele, who started his career at Utah as a walk-on, played in all 14 games in 2021 with seven starts, finishing with 23 receptions for 389 yards (16.9 ypc) and a touchdown. He recorded a career-high four receptions for a team-best 84 yards against USC in 2021, scoring his first touchdown as a Ute on a 37-yard flea flicker reception.

Time is ticking down as Utah prepares to head to The Swamp in Gainesville, Fla., on Saturday, Sept. 3, to take on the Florida Gators. The game will air at 5 p.m. MT on ESPN. 
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