More than a decade before he made his first official visit or received a scholarship offer to play football in college, Ali’i Niumatalolo was a part of Rob Harris’ undefeated Annapolis youth co-ed basketball team that blew past opposing four- and five-year-olds with ease.

“He was a really sweet young man,” Harris said. “A cute kid and very shy, actually.”

Fourteen years later, Harris is again coaching Niumatalolo, a standout senior middle linebacker at Broadneck High School. Now, though, no one would dare accuse him of being cute, shy or anything of the sort.

“He’s a lot more confident now,” Harris said. “He’s got a killer instinct.”

On Tuesday night, Niumatalolo — the son of the Navy football Coach Ken Niumatalolo and the brother of BYU linebacker Va’a Niumatalolo — orally committed to play football at Boise State.

Naturally, the biggest supporter of his decision was his mother, Barbara.

“She’s been wanting me to go to Boise, just the way she felt when we went out there,” Niumatalolo said. “She felt good about it there.”

Niumatalolo, a second-team All-Met a year ago on a Bruins team that went undefeated in the regular season, visited the Boise, Idaho campus with his mother in the spring. Immediately, they both felt strong connections toward the school and it jumped to the top of Niumatalolo’s list, so much so that he wanted to commit the moment he received his official offer in June.

But the Niumatalolos are devout members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So, like all major decisions, it would not come until after enough time was spent talking, thinking, praying and fasting.

“I wanted to be absolutely sure so I don’t have to decommit, because that’s one of my things,” said Niumatalolo, a three-star linebacker, according to Rivals. “I don’t like when kids are committing and decommitting all over the place. I just wanted to be absolutely sure, and I just had nothing but good feelings for Boise State.”

Harris admits that he could not tell what Niumatalolo was going to develop into when he was 4 and learning to dribble, but in reality it didn’t take too long for the signs to show.

“Honestly, his freshman year, he was one of the hardest hitting kids we had on our varsity team,” Harris said. “And he was 13 years old.”

Niumatalolo entered high school at roughly 230 pounds, the same weight he’s on pace for now. But in that time, the change has been enormous. Fat has been replaced by muscle — his mother thinks he’s “getting too skinny” — the result of extra offseason training every day.

When scheduled lifts and exercises were over, Niumatalolo went back for more.

“I do it for my team, too, because I realize from my dad it’s about the little things, guys who do more,” Niumatalolo said. “I see all these athletic kids that are playing, the recruits. I know I’m not as athletic as them, so I have to make up with it for my work ethic.”

At 6-1, Broadneck is preparing for undefeated No. 6 Old Mill on Friday. If Broadneck is to have success against the potent Patriots, the man in the middle on defense will be a major reason why. The Patriots ended the Bruins’ unbeaten run in the first round of the playoffs last year. Old Mill went on to reach the Maryland 4A title game.

But, regardless of the outcome Friday night, Niumatalolo will expect more out of himself, and as result, he will do more.

“I don’t have specific goals,” he said. “But I can always be faster, I can always be stronger, and I can always workout more and find better ways to get better. That’s what drives me.”

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