8th grade QB Sol-Jay Maiava says Michigan offer leads to motivation, pressure
Sol-Jay Maiava poses with (from left to right) Michigan director of player personnel Tony Tuioti, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and his Maiava's father, Luaao Peters.(Courtesy photo)
ANN ARBOR - Sol-Jay Maiava trains six days a week.
He lifts, practices with his team, works out on his own, runs on the beach and studies film of opposing defenses.
These are fairly standard practices for an athlete who aspires to play college football. Maiava, however, hasn't even been to his first high school class yet. But the 15-year-old quarterback from Laie, Hawaii, already has a scholarship offer from Michigan.
"I'm so grateful, I'm so thankful," he said of his first offer. "Not too many kids my age get this opportunity and it's certainly a blessing from the man above. I just have to thank Him and my family. Now I just have to work 10 times harder than I've been doing."
Maiava, 15, received an offer from Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh following a satellite camp last week in Hawaii. The incoming freshman at Kahuku High School had practice with the varsity team earlier the same day and didn't want to miss it because he's battling for the starting varsity quarterback spot, but the timing allowed him to also attend the Michigan camp.
"I was excited because Coach Jim is a big-timer," Maiava said. "I just wanted to meet him and introduce myself to him, get my name out towards him and show him what I can do as an athlete."
After Maiava won a camp competition, Harbaugh approached him and called him out by name. That, alone, was thrilling for Maiava, who was then told to stick around after the camp with his parents. Then Harbaugh, while with Michigan director of player personnel Tony Tuioti, offered a scholarship.
"I looked at Coach Harbaugh and told him 'Are you for real? Are you being serious?'" said Maiava's father, Luaao Peters. "He said 'Yeah, I'm ready to offer now.'"
Maiava's mom, Rosemary Maiava-Peters, was in tears.
"As a mother, it's amazing to see a child accomplish a goal that he set at such a young age," she said. "We just wanted him to get a D-I offer before he graduates and for him to get one before he actually enters high school was shocking. It took us a couple hours to soak it up and then to realize that it happened. He can actually cross his goal off before he enters high school.
"It wasn't just any offer, it was Michigan," she added. "We never would have imaged a school on that side of the United States offering him at this young of an age, let alone an ex-NFL coach. It was amazing."
Although he's only an incoming freshman and verbal offers are non-binding, simply receiving one fulfilled a goal and validated the work he's put in. Maiava's drive ramped up when, at age 10, a Pop Warner coach told him he should be an offensive lineman, not a quarterback.
"That's when I started to train harder and become more serious about it," he said, "just to prove people wrong from there on."
Maiava is 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds and said, per his last trip to the doctor, there's a 95 percent chance he'll grow to 6-3. He's a dual-threat quarterback who enjoys passing as much as running and led his Laie Park Raiders teams to four straight Hawaii Jr. Prep Sports state titles.
"Honestly, I just like having the ball in my hands during the game," he said. "I like playing with the defensive coordinators' heads and the DBs and linebackers and especially the D-line. When they rush up the field, I like to scramble, act like I'm going to throw the ball and run or act like I'm going to run and throw."
Getting an offer before he plays a single snap of high school football is both motivation and pressure for Maiava, who is taking a mature approach to the process and wants to make his family and community proud.
"I look at it as I don't really have a scholarship, I tell myself that I don't have a scholarship yet," he said. "It's both pressure and motivation. I could have a bad game and people would be like 'Oh yeah, that quarterback is overrated, you're not that good.' On the other hand, I could have a good game so people could say 'I think I see what Coach Jim saw in him.' It's kind of pressure and motivation I deal with sometimes."
Peters took Maiava to underclassmen camps in Georgia, Florida and California, among other stops. He's watched his son write down goals for the following day, week, month and beyond and helped instill the right mentality.
"Coaches will look at you and size you up ... but there's one thing that you can't measure and that's your work ethic, your drive and the passion you have," Peters said. "I always tell him if anything is going to set him apart it is going to be his competitiveness, the way he works."
Maiava is just the third eighth grader ever offered by Michigan and all three have come during Harbaugh's tenure. The honors student is interested in Michigan's engineering program and, of course, the potential to develop under Harbaugh.
"I feel like he will make my knowledge grow more towards the game of football," he said. "He will teach me so much and he taught me a lot at the camp too. He was there on the microphone watching the quarterbacks throw and telling me all these tips and pointers and I was just soaking in as much as I could. He amazed me with all the stuff that he taught me."
Maiava, a Class of 2020 prospect, understands there's a long time between now and National Signing Day his senior year of high school and a lot can change. So, he's taking the swarm of attention in stride and knows there's a lengthy process ahead.
"I would love to go to Michigan with Coach Jim, but I think I'll just wait a while and see what happens," he said. "Coach Tuioti told me to wait and think about what I want to decide. He doesn't want me to rush into anything."
For now, Maiava will continue the path he's been on when he enters high school. It starts with waking at 5:45 a.m. every day, making a healthy breakfast, washing dishes, taking out the trash and doing other chores around the house before heading off to school and eventually practice. Maiava-Peters said it's part of what stands out about her humble, helpful, respectful son - the youngest of five siblings - whom she wants to continue to achieve in the classroom and on the football field - especially after the offer from Michigan.
"As a mother you want your child to be an example, a role model - that's every parent's goal," she said. "For the younger children in our community to see him accomplish that, as a mother it's very heartwarming."