When it came to playing football at the next level, Valencia’s bruising running back and linebacker Luring Paialii had to weigh his options.
Idaho State was the first to offer him, and Hawaii tried its best to scoop him up. Given his Samoan heritage, it wasn’t a bad bet.
It was Fresno State however that got a hold of Paialii. An unofficial visit with his family sealed the deal and the current Vikings star will be a Bulldog next year.
“When we went down there it felt very welcoming, warm and close to home,” Paialii said. “It just felt like the place to be. The coaching staff made it very welcoming for me and my family.”
Paialii will join an up-and-coming Fresno State team that went 10-4 last season and made it to the Mountain West Championship game. The Bulldogs are 4-1 so far this year.
Fresno State is helmed by Jeff Tedford, who took over the program in 2017. He was previously the head coach at California from 2002-2012.
At Cal, Tedford coached several running backs who made and continue to make significant impacts in the NFL, including Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett, J.J. Arrington who played at College of the Canyons and Valencia alumnus Shane Vereen.
“Shane Vereen impacted me because he was also one of the big names that came out of Valencia High School and is now at the next level,” Paialii said. “That was a big impact knowing he was able to coach Shane Vereen.”
Paialii currently plays both sides of the ball for Valencia and is second on the team in rushing with 246 yards on 53 carries and eight touchdowns. His eight scores are tied with junior running back Jake Santos for most on the team.
The Bulldogs current leading rusher is sophomore Jordan Mims, with junior Josh Hokit and senior Dejonte O’Neal following close behind.
There is a chance Paialii could see time at running back in college, but he’ll most likely be utilized more on defense.
“I’m going to be playing linebacker, probably middle linebacker,” Paialii said. “We did discuss some type of short goal line rushing, so most likely I’ll be able to run the ball too on short yardage.”
For now, Paialii is focused on finishing the season strong at Valencia and helping lead the Vikings to a tenth straight Foothill League crown.
He can’t help but get excited though at what the future has in stock for him.
“It’s a blessing. It means the most to me to be a part of a new fresh start and go out there work hard everyday on and off the field and make something happen for this program,” he said.