Siaki Ika couldn’t sleep. Just when the East High School defensive end began nodding off, he woke up again. The stress was getting to him, just as it was getting to his coach, Brandon Matich, as the two texted back and forth at 3 a.m.
Ika had a big decision to make. In just a few hours, he would announce to friends, family and and coaches at what university he would continue his football journey. A large group gathered in the East gym and listened intently as Ika stood above five hats, all donning college logos, to see which one he’d place on his head.
Ika looked at the five hats for a few seconds before picking up the purple one that read “LSU” in yellow stitching. He signed his national letter of intent to play football at Louisiana State University moments later.
“This is the happiest day of my life,” Ika said as he fought back tears.
Ika chose LSU over Florida, Oregon, USC and his hometown Utah Utes. He and his family met Tuesday night, he said, to discuss what decision he would make.
His father, Likeila, said the family preferred his son choose Florida. But ultimately, the decision was Ika’s to make.
“It’s an honor,” Likeila Ika said. “We’ve never experienced this before. But it’s one of the best achievements a son can do. We love it.”
After Ika and his father signed the paperwork, he video-called LSU’s head football coach, who sounded excited about the news. Ika said he had not informed the university about his decision prior to Wednesday morning.
Ika, a 6-foot-3, 351-pound defensive tackle, made his official visit to LSU in October. He said he was “very close” to choosing another school because they were all neck and neck in his mind. But he made his final choice Tuesday night and felt good about it the next morning, he said.
“It just felt right,” Ika said of LSU. “They show so much love, and everything about them, I feel like fits me.”
Ike’s main goal is to play in the NFL. Matich believes that will happen for him.
“He’s an NFL guy," Matich said. “There’s no doubt. ... He’s going to be a first-round draft pick.”
Ika is a four-star recruit and considered the best prep football prospect in the state, according to 247sports. He received recruiting interest from Division I schools all over the country.
Ika averaged 12.7 tackles per game for the Leopards last season.