Keli‘i Montibon took a much-desired shortcut to land at Oregon State, which will hand him a football scholarship during the first day of fall camp.
The 2016 Kamehameha graduate played at Riverside College and in something of a rarity secured a Division I deal after just one juco season.
Out of the 18 Tigers, including mid-year transfers, who signed a national letter of intent, only three freshmen found next-level homes, including Montibon.
The 6-foot-4, 285-pound right tackle is the only Riverside freshman to earn a Division I scholarship.
“It’s all been a blessing,” Montibon said. “That was my main goal. I wanted to go there and play one season and get a scholarship offer. That’s pretty much what I did. I put my head down and got an opportunity.”
Out of Kamehameha, he had an offer from Army and a walk-on invite to OSU, which relied on associate head coach Chad Kauha’aha’a, who’s from Maui, to scout the islands.
Montibon decided to attend Riverside, which competes in the California Community College Athletic Association, a recruiting hotbed.
Then things fell into place.
Before the season, Montibon was in competition for the right guard position but the right tackle was injured. He moved there and earned the starting job.
The Tigers finished with a 10-2 record and lost to Fullerton 29-20 in the Southern California Football Association championship. (Fullerton beat American River for the CCAA state title.)
Montibon was named to the all-conference first team and the offers poured in: OSU, Cal, Utah, Houston, Florida Atlantic, Florida Central, UConn, and UMass.
“The main reason I decided to go to Riverside is because it’s a good feeder school,” Montibon said. “OSU O-line coach TJ Wood was with coach Chad at Wisconsin.
“They liked my feet and said my blocking was pretty good and that I finished my blocks on film. They also said I could bend.”
On his hudl.com profile, Montibon pushes his foes backward on run blocks and displays flexibility and lateral movement against pass rushers.
The Tigers and Beavers run the same type of spread offense and the blocking schemes will also be similar.
“At Riverside, it was big on big and there was a lot of deuces (double-teaming) on the inside,” Montibon said. “Overall, I got more technically sound. For my mindset, I knew what the bigger picture was and had to work hard for it. My hands and feet got better, and I finished my blocks a little more.”
Besides getting film out, social media, such as Twitter, is huge in today’s college recruiting. Montibon connected and communicated with most of the recruiters through Twitter.
He also pointed out that character counts because the Riverside coaches field inquiries from all over — big-time and smaller colleges — and make recommendations.
“The strength and conditioning coach at Riverside pushed me to get mentally and physically tougher,” he said. “At the juco level, there are pretty good players. There are good ballers, who have the talent but not might have the grades.
“The competition in juco is pretty good. There were several teams that gave us hard rubs, but you have to trust your technique and know you’re doing the right thing.”
In last November’s loss to Fullerton, Montibon broke his left forearm early in the game. He was on a cut block, and his arm got caught against a defender’s knee.
“I’m pretty much 100 percent now,” he said. “I had a cast on for two months and slowly recovered. Then I had to strengthen my arm.”
It was productive time away from home.
“I got more independent and responsible,” he said. “I was cooking whatever I could. My mom (Melissa) taught me well.”
Montibon, who’ll major in business or kinesiology, will be one of nine players from Hawaii, including junior safety Drew Kell (Hilo High) and senior linebacker Manase Hungalu (Kealakehe).
“When I went up for my visit on June 9, they brought out the Polynesian boys to host me,” Montibon said. “I liked the campus. It’s a big school.
“I’m just training during the summer, and I leave June 25 to go back to Riverside and pack stuff up. Then I’ll head to OSU on June 27.”
The old Phil Knight joke is that too bad the Nike honcho didn’t go to OSU instead of Oregon. Then the Beavers would have had a wealthy financial benefactor.
“OSU is sponsored by Nike,” Montibon said. “They’ve got new football facilities. It’s on the rise.”
The same could be said about Montibon, who’ll face wide-open competition at right tackle where the starter graduated.
Even better, when he arrives in Corvallis, Ore., there will be a hard-earned scholarship waiting.