JT Tuimoloau, the nation’s top football recruit, is SBLive’s 3A Senior Athlete of the Year

Welcome to a continuing tradition at SBLive Washington – honoring the WaFd Bank 2020-21 senior male and female athletes of the year for each classification.

Because the SBLive crew gets so immersed in specific sports seasons, it is nice to take a step back to pick a statewide honor on a broader scale.

The criteria isn’t too expansive: The starting point is finding seniors who are all-league/all-state performers in two or more sports. Totality of career is also a factor. So is administrator/coach/fan recommendation.

Enjoy as we honor some of Washington’s top multi-sport senior athletes!

J.T. Tuimoloau’s on-field accomplishments make up a long, well-documented list. 

But to those around him, what really separates the 5-star defensive lineman, who 247 Sports regards as the country’s top recruit, is his character. 

Just ask Tuimoloau’s football and basketball coaches at Eastside Catholic, who have seen the way he carries himself up close for the past four years. 

“You don’t normally get such nice kids off the court to be so mean, great and such a leader on the court,” Eastside Catholic basketball coach Brent Merritt said. “Either you’re too tough or you’re too soft – and he’s both. He’s a teddy bear off the court, and he’s a mean dude on the court.” 

Added Crusaders football coach Dominic Daste: “He loves (his teammates). He loves the program. He loves football. I couldn’t ask for a better kid.”

One of Merritt’s methods to motivate his players is to talk smack, evenly distributed, in an effort to let them know that no matter the level of skill, he plays no favorites. 

“It’s hard to talk bad about JT, because he answers the bell every year,” Merritt said. 

At 6-foot-5, 280 pounds, Tuimoloau possesses an atypical combination of a mean edge and a fleet-footedness and dexterity that makes him a nightmare to defend at the high school level — both as an edge rusher on the football field and a versatile forward on the hardwood.

He also consistently played the sports while seasons overlapped, an often difficult process fluctuating between different fitness requirements. Perhaps that’s why two of his top football suitors — Washington and Oregon — also offered him a basketball scholarship (Ducks coach Mario Cristobal attended Eastside Catholic’s regular season home basketball win over O’Dea in 2020).

He famously reeled in the game-winning touchdown with one hand in the 3A state football title game in 2019 — to secure back-to-back championships — then turned around and dominated the likes of Jefferson (Ore.) and Bishop Gorman (Nev.) in the nationally-competitive Portland-based Les Schwab Invitational not long after, having not yet played his way into basketball shape. 

While some blue chip recruits in his position opted out of COVID-shortened spring high school seasons to avoid injury entering college, Tuimoloau made it a point to play in both condensed high school seasons this spring without the chance of winning state titles.

When the Crusaders football team played in a consolation Metro League playoff game, Tuimoloau, battling a severely bruised and swollen calf, begged and pleaded his mom  — and doctors — to let him suit up. 

Even though he didn’t, he was often times the most animated one on the sidelines.

Tuimoloau is uniquely loyal to those close to him, whether it’s his family, friends, classmates or even teammates at Eastside Catholic.

“Coming into my freshman year, I didn’t know where I was going to play,” Tuimoloau said. “Being part of the (Eastside Catholic) family – this foundation – I wouldn’t choose anybody else than right here. It’s been a great four years – also a quick four years – and all I can say is I am blessed to be a part of this program.”

J.T. TUIMOLOAU BIO

School: Eastside Catholic

Sports: Football, basketball.

Next step: The college football world awaits the 5-star recruit’s much-anticipated college decision. He’s reportedly deciding between Ohio State, Washington, Oregon and USC.

Senior-year highlights: Earned his second consecutive Metro League defensive MVP honor, while also playing the Crusaders’ top option on offense at tight end … SBLive’s 2021 all-state football player of the year … selected as the 2020-21 Polynesian High School Football Player of the Year.

Career accomplishments: Football: Second team all-Metro League defense as a freshman … Led the Crusaders to two consecutive 3A state titles in 2018 and 2019 … 2020 All-American Bowl selection … went wire-to-wire as 247 Sports’ No. 1 recruit nationally in the class of 2021. Basketball: First team all-Metro League pick as a sophomore, second team selection as a junior … helped lead the Crusaders to a second place Les Schwab Invitational finish in 2019, then the team’s first Metro League regular season title in the same season, helping the Crusaders to a third place 3A state finish.

MORE: 2020-21 SENIOR ATHLETES OF THE YEAR

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