On a field more than 3,700 miles from his future college, Noa Pola-Gates made public the decision he had a year to think about.
For Nebraska, it was worth the wait.
A consensus four-star safety, Pola-Gates chose the Huskers during a televised announcement Saturday night at the Polynesian Bowl in Honolulu. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound prospect from Williams Field High School in Gilbert, Arizona, turned down finalists USC and Arizona State after trimming Alabama from his list last month.
Pola-Gates revealed his decision midway through the first quarter, donning the red hat with a white block N held by his mother, Amy. What drew him to the Huskers?
“The fans and the coaching staff,” Pola-Gates said, “and how well-bonded they were.”
Nebraska officially introduced the safety on social media soon after the announcement, meaning Pola-Gates inked a national letter of intent during the early signing period in December. So the Huskers signed 24 high school players last month and are up to 26 overall in the 2019 cycle, including junior college running back Dedrick Mills and graduate transfer defensive lineman Darrion Daniels.
Pola-Gates has the third highest 247Sports composite ranking among Husker commits behind receiver/running back Wandale Robinson and linebacker Nick Henrich. NU now has as many as four more spots available in the class.
When Nebraska extended a scholarship to Pola-Gates on Jan. 17, 2018, the defender had just returned from the All-American Bowl combine and held offers from in-state schools Arizona and Arizona State, along with Memphis. He was among the first 20 players in the 2019 class to whom the Huskers offered.
Good fortune intervened for the Huskers in October. Pola-Gates decided to spend an official visit to Lincoln mainly to support his cousin, Keana Pola, who was on her official visit as an NU softball recruit. But the hard-hitting safety watched Nebraska and coach Scott Frost get their first win against Minnesota, then hit it off with his future teammates playing video games late into the night.
Pola-Gates had plenty of other options to weigh after taking visits to Penn State, Arizona State, Alabama and USC. The Trojans were particularly attractive — his cousin, Isaiah Pola-Mao, plays safety there while his uncle, Troy Polamalu, is a legend at the school.
NU, though, closed strong. Coaches made a lasting impression during their in-home visit in December and didn’t pressure him to declare during the early signing period.
Pola-Gates was a two-way standout at Williams Field but dominated in the secondary. He recorded 57 tackles, five interceptions, seven pass deflections and a blocked field goal in 12 games last fall.
“The physicality that he has is what’s elevated him,” Williams Field coach Steve Campbell told The World-Herald last week. “He has the coverage skills and he’s long, but there’s a lot of guys like that. He has that combined with a love to hit and a love to tackle.”
He joins NU signees Quinton Newsome, Javin Wright and Myles Farmer in the secondary. He also becomes the third Arizona native to choose the Huskers this cycle after defensive linemen Ty Robinson and Wright.
Pola-Gates’ cousin, Chandler (Arizona) defensive lineman Matthew Pola-Mao, will take an official visit to Nebraska next weekend.
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