HONOLULU - Fresno State junior linebacker Nela Otukolo has been named to the 2017 Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award Watch List as announced by the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame on Thursday. The award is presented annually to the most outstanding Polynesian college football player that epitomizes great ability and integrity.
One of 48 players from 30 different FBS programs named to the watch list, Otukolo enters his junior season with the 'Dogs having played in 18 career games making 73 tackles, nine tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one quarterback hurry.
Otukolo is coming off a sophomore campaign in 2016 that saw him play in 10 games making four starts while finishing with the ninth-most tackles on the team with 48, including 27 solo stops. He made a career-high 10 tackles against San Diego State, forced his first career fumble at home against Air Force and posted 1.5 sacks on the season.
A native of Hawai'i who is a pre-psychology major at Fresno State, Otukolo played at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas under current UNLV head coach Tony Sanchez and was named the 2014 Nevada Defensive Player of the Year and was an All-State selection as he helped lead the Gaels to four-straight state championships as well as a No. 1 national ranking in USA Today's High School Sports Super 25 at the end of the 2014 season.
One of 15 players from the Mountain West nominated for the award, Hawai'i leads the nation with six. The Pac-12 follows closely with 14 nominations followed by the Big 12 (3), Mid-American (3), SEC (2), Big 10 (2), ACC (1), American (1), Conference USA (1) and Independent (6).
Now in its fourth year, the inaugural recipient of the award in 2014 was Oregon quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota. Notre Dame offensive lineman Ronnie Stanley picked up the award in 2015 and Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau won the award in 2016.
"The Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award has quickly become one of the most prestigious awards in college football," said Jesse Sapolu, Chairman and Co-Founder. "More than 500 players of Polynesian ancestry are playing Division I football today."
The winner of the 2017 Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award will be announced on December 14, 2017. Five finalists will be unveiled on November 30. The presentation of the award will be held at the Celebration Dinner during the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Weekend on January 21, 2018 in Honolulu, Hawai'i.