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Tuesday, March 26, 2013
RB Palelei adds bulk, adding interest

By Gary Laney

ZACHARY, La. -- When Sione Palelei's father was considering moving his family from Utah to Louisiana when Sione was in seventh grade, he told his son that the football in Louisiana was "big," as Sione puts it.

Sione said it proved to be true.

"It was mind-blowing, shocking ," said Palelei, who moved to Louisiana for his eighth-grade year. "I thought it was big, but I didn't know it was big big."

Palelei has adjusted to it quite well. Five years later, heading into his senior season at East Ascension High in the Baton Rouge suburb of Gonzales, Palelei has emerged as one of the state's top running backs, one of several who are candidates to be the second-best in the state behind star prospect Leonard Fournette.

The speedster has offers from the likes of Utah and Wisconsin and has drawn interest lately from Missouri and Hawaii. A back who has built a reputation for straight-ahead speed and quick change of direction, he's showing scouts surprising size this spring, checking in at a muscled 197 pounds at the recent NUC 5 star Challenge Baton Rouge at Zachary High.

"I was up around 200 pounds," he said, "but I'm trying to get down to 195 for track."

He was plenty fast enough at the NUC event, routinely beating coverage for big plays on two-on-two drills, showing his speed and ball skills that give him the complete package for a back whose forte is to beat opponents in the open field.

"I want to be a little balanced," he said. "I want to be fast, [have good] balance, power -- it's not rare for Polynesian like me to be like that, but that would be ideal."

Palelei is a rare Polynesian player in Louisiana, but football has given him connections that have helped his name get out. He has an uncle on the Utah coaching staff and a close family friend on the Wisconsin staff.

And, he's learned, he has a family tie at LSU as well. Offensive guard Fehoko Fanaika, a junior college transfer who just joined the Tigers for spring, is related to Palelei.

"I look up to him," Palelei said.

Palelei's connections in the college football world runs deep, but he's putting together an impressive spring that follows a solid junior season. He is hoping to draw even more attention.

This summer, he's planning to visit Utah and while he's there, he'll also swing by to visit BYU.

In the meantime, his family connection to LSU has him getting plenty of exposure to the Tigers coaching staff.

"I'm there at a lot of their practices," he said.