Utah Warriors & Pio Vatuvei
The Utah Warriors announced the signing of former Louisville Defensive End and USA Hawk, Pio Vatuvei. He is 23 years old, 6’2″ and has slimmed down from his football weight of 296 pounds to a rugby weight of 250 pounds.
Vatuvei is from Hayward, California and comes from a Tongan family. He went to Patterson High School and graduated in 2012. While at Patterson, he gained recognition as a defensive end and fullback. He was a National top 150 high school recruit. He was selected to the Division II All-State 1st team by MaxPreps.com, to the Cal-Hi Sports Medium-sized All-State team, and the Western Athletic Conference 1st team, as well as the ‘Outstanding Defense Lineman’.
Vatuvei also played for the Hayward Rugby Griffins as a back row from 2006 to 2011. He did this with his brother and his cousins after the football season had ended. In 2011 the team went undefeated and defeated De La Salle High school in the Championship 46-34.
Vatuvei was recruited by Arizona, Cal, Colorado, Utah, and Washington, and enrolled at the University of Washington as a Freshman. There he continued playing football as a defensive end, but in 2013 transferred to College of San Mateo where he also played football. In 2014 Vatuvei transferred to Louisville and played two seasons for the Cardinals and won the Music City Bowl in 2015 over Texas A&M. He also played in the 2016 Tropical Bowl.
In the Fall 2016 season, he played rugby with the University of Louisville. Emil Walton, Louisville’s Head Coach, commented to Justin Rutledge about the match against Miami (OH) saying that “Pio Vatuvei and LaRome White definitely brought a more physical aspect of our attack with powerful runs and offloads where needed.”
In 2016, Vatuvei had NFL tryout with the Tampa Buccaneers. That did not prove to be successful and he returned to Louisville to complete his education in Fall 2016.
Vatuvei attended the AIG Men’s Collegiate All-American Identification Camp in Chula Vista, California from January 14-16, 2017. He then joined the Jacksonville Axemen USA Rugby League team and was selected for the North-South All-Star match in Tampa, a trial to represent the USA Hawks. Based on his performance, Vatuvei was selected for the USA Hawks and started and debuted for the Hawks against the Canada Wolverines at Lamport Stadium in September. The USA used this game to select their 23 man squad going into the Rugby League World Cup 2017 and unfortunately, he was not selected for the RLWC2017 team.
“Pio will look to move to prop with the Warriors with the option of utilizing his agility, speed, and size in other areas of the pitch.”
Pio Vatuvei said “Signing with the Warriors means a lot to me and I look forward to putting in plenty of hours of hard work and effort with the team to have a successful season. I love new challenges and I love to compete. I put a lot on myself to do more than is expected. My brother passed away a few years ago and he was the best rugby player I knew. He always told me that I have all the talent in the world, but I just have to believe, and put my mind, body, and soul into the game if I want to be successful. I didn’t know what he meant when he was saying it, but with this opportunity with the Utah Warriors I plan on putting those words my brother told me all those years ago into action.”
Warriors Head Coach, Alf Daniels said “Pio is a great find for us. He’s a humble hard working guy who lets his actions on the field speak for themselves. As a football defensive end, he brings a lot of physicality to the team, but I’ve seen him run and he’s a handful to try and stop with the ball in hand. He’s been through a lot in his life and adapts to whatever challenge is thrown his way. That’s not only the kind of player we want, that’s the kind of Warriors we need.”
- Alf Daniels – Head Coach
- Paul Lasike – Center
- John Cullen – Lock, Backrow
- Lote Tuipulotu – Hooker (Prop)
- Alex Tucci – No.8
- Kenny Scott – Flanker, Wing
- Saia Uhila – No. 8
- Matt Jensen – Lock
- Pio Vatuvei – Prop