Washington State’s All-American defensive lineman, Hercules Mata’afa, received more postseason recognition Tuesday morning, being named the 2017 Polynesian College Football Player of the Year.
Mata’afa, a native of Lahaina, Hawaii, earned Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors from the Associated Press and led the conference in both tackles-for-loss (21.5) and quarterback sacks (9.5). The junior defensive tackle has been named a first team All-American by both the Walter Camp Foundation and Associated Press.
The annual Polynesian Player of the Year award recognizes a college football player who “epitomizes great ability and integrity.” Former Oregon and current Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota won the inaugural award in 2014, followed by Notre Dame and Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Ronnie Stanley in 2015 and ex-Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau in 2016.
Mata’afa’s dominant junior season earned him first team AP All-Pac-12 honors at both defensive tackle and defensive end. The conference’s coaches voted him an All-Pac-12 first team defensive end and Mata’afa also earned a spot on the Football Writers Association of America’s second team All-American ballot.
Sports Illustrated and The Athletic also named Mata’afa to their respective All-American lists.
A 12-game starter for the Cougars, Mata’afa was most impressive in a Week 11 game at Utah. The junior was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week after piling up five tackles-for-loss, three sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in a 33-25 win over the Utes. Mata’afa finished the regular season with 43 total tackles and two forced fumbles.
“On behalf of the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame Board of Directors and Selection Committee, we congratulate Hercules on this historic accomplishment,” said Jesse Sapolu, Polynesian Football Hall of Fame Chairman and Co-Founder. “He had an outstanding season and truly represents the very best of our Polynesian culture.”
Mata’afa will be formally presented at a Hall of Fame Presentation Dinner in Oahu, Hawaii, on Jan. 19 and will also be recognized during the Polynesian Bowl on Jan. 20. The other finalists for the 2017 award were Oregon State linebacker Manase Hungalu, Washington defensive lineman Vita Vea, Virginia Tech linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka and Hawaii linebacker Jahlani Tavai.
“This award means so much to me because I’m able to receive the award in my home state and for my Samoan heritage,” Mata’afa said in an acceptance video. The junior also thanked former Cougars quarterback Jack Thompson, a Polynesian Football Hall of Famer who “was instrumental to my growth here at Wazzu.”
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