Sunday, March 18, 2012

Flowing hair and hard hits make Kent State linebacker Malauulu hard to miss

KENT: The first thing most people notice when they first set eyes on C.J. Malauulu is the hair.

Even when Kent State’s new junior linebacker of Samoan heritage is wearing his helmet, a big poof of his curly dark brown hair hangs down the back of his jersey, similar to Troy Polamalu.

The magnificent mane makes him unmistakable from behind as he flies around making tackles.

The next thing that stands out about Malauulu is his play. A 6-foot-1, 235-pound junior college transfer, Malauulu has made a noticeable impact for the Golden Flashes during preseason camp.

“He is so fast to the football, he looks like a running back hitting the hole a lot of times,” KSU coach Darrell Hazell said. “He’s physical and just naturally instinctive.”

In many ways, Malauulu was a gift that fell into Hazell’s lap.

He was originally recruited by former KSU coach Doug Martin’s staff. But fog in San Diego kept his plane grounded and him from making his official visit to campus before Martin resigned.

After Hazell took over in mid-December, he and his staff were going through the previous regime’s recruiting bank and liked what they saw on tape of Malauulu.

“Every school is different, but a lot of times when new staffs come in they want an entirely new recruiting bank and don’t want anything to do with the previous staff’s kids,” Hazell said. “Us staying on [Malauulu] had a lot to do with the timing of when we got here.

“By the time we get things going, it’s January, and we were a little bit behind. So we’re like, ‘OK, who do they have? Who are the kids that have interest?’ So we took a look at them to see who’d fit in, and C.J. was one of those guys.”

Oceanside, Calif., is a long way from Kent. That might help explain why the transfer from California’s Palomar Community College showed up on campus the way he did.

“When he came out here, he got off the plane in shorts and no coat — in the middle of January,” Hazell said. “We were like, ‘Who’s this guy?’ ”

It didn’t take long for Hazell and his staff to figure it out. The easy-going Malauulu is named after his father, Casey Sr., and is the oldest of seven siblings.

“A couple weeks after the coaching change I got a call from [the Flashes’ new linebackers coach] Marcus Freeman,” Malauulu said. “He said he watched my film and was interested and excited to see me play.”

Despite learning about Northeast Ohio winters the hard way, Malauulu was sold on Kent State.

“I took my trip out here, had fun and loved it,” he said. “I liked that the program seemed like it was changing around and rebuilding. I’m just glad I jumped on this train just as it got rolling.”

Asked if Malauulu had a shot to make an impact as a starting linebacker for the Flashes with Dorian Wood and Cobrani Mixon having graduated, Hazell did not hesitate before responding: “I’d be shocked if he didn’t.”

Stephanie Storm can be reached at

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