Stanford commit will cheer for Notre Dame
"Did you see how Manti did? Did you see that catch Robby made?"
He and his fellow teammates always have an eye on Punahou grads and current Notre Dame football players Manti Te'o and Robby Toma.
When Savaiinaea returns to school next week he'll be greeted by those same questions but this time he'll have a first-hand account of the game. He'll attend Saturday's Stanford game in Notre Dame Stadium as a part of his official visit to South Bend.
A path from Punahou to Notre Dame already has been paved by the Irish linebacker and wide receiver and now Savaiinaea wants to see for himself the program that's allowed Te'o and Toma to be so successful.
"It's really inspired me to go up there and check out the whole school and see why they like it," Savaiinaea said.
The 6-foot-3, 240-pound inside linebacker prospect initially verbally committed to Stanford in March, but has remained open to a few other schools. But would Notre Dame have made the list if not for Te'o and Toma?
"Honestly, no. It's so far away from where we're at," Savaiinaea said. "I really didn't have them in the picture at first. Just thinking about it, I thought it would be a great experience to see."
Making a visit to any school requires a significant commitment from the Hawaii native, especially in the middle of his football season. Savaiinaea made a visit to Texas A&M recently and found time during his bye week to travel to South Bend.
"It takes a lot. I have to leave Thursday night on a red-eye and I think it's a six or seven hour flight. It's very time-consuming." Savaiinaea said. "I'm missing a day of practice, which is really hurtful. We have a bye week and then a big game coming up.
"Hopefully, when I get to the hotel, like I did with Texas A&M, I'm just going to work out at the hotel and get a little running and lifting in."
Savaiinaea committed to Stanford after making his first college visit outside of Hawaii and was blown away by the campus.
"Those first-time chills that I got, that made me commit," Savaiinaea said.
"They do have a great academic system. They do have a great football team. Now that I'm seeing all these other schools, it's making my decision a lot harder."
After visiting Notre Dame, Savaiinaea plans to use official visits to UCLA and Stanford as he weighs his final decision.
Notre Dame wide receivers coach Mike Denbrock flew out to Honolulu in the spring to show interest in Savaiinaea. The linebacker prospect said he's impressed anytime a coach visits his school.
"It takes so much out of their time. They're college coaches. They're busy with football 24/7," Savaiinaea said. "For them to come out and make a trip just to talk a little bit, say hi and touch base, it's a real honor."
In South Bend the linebacker prospect will be surrounded by a number of Hawaiians with the Te'o family also in town. Savaiinaea is too young to have played with Te'o and Toma, but he's talked with the two when they return home from time to time.
The play of Te'o that has led to a Sports Illustrated cover and Heisman hype has inspired Savaiinaea,
"Everyone is happy for him. He's an idol to so many of the people here. He's making the dream that every person that comes from Hawaii come true," Savaiinaea said. "We all dream of playing in the NFL, doing good in college, and he's making it a realty. We don't have many people from Hawaii that go out and do it big. He's putting that spark in us to want to do the same."
The 2013 Irish recruiting class is already crowded with five potential college linebackers, but Savaiinaea said the coaching staff has continued to express that he could have a future in their program. Savaiinaea ranks as the No. 2 inside linebacker prospect in the 2013 class according to 247Sports.com. Rivals.com ranks Savaiinaea 18th at the position.
"They said if I come in there's a good chance that I could play right away," Savaiinaea said. "That's good to know. Always as a freshman you really want to get in there and make a difference right when you go."
A feeling of home sealed the deal for Savaiinaea at Stanford, but he doesn't know what it would take for him to change his commitment. One thing he does know is who he'll be cheering for on Saturday.
"Notre Dame is bringing me out there so I will show my respect to Notre Dame and cheer for them," Savaiinaea said. "To me, that's just disrespectful to pull for Stanford while I'm on my Notre Dame visit. I'll be cheering for Notre Dame this game."
Staff writer Tyler James: