Two Utes Named Finalists For Polynesian College Football POTY

Dec 7, 2023, 10:37 AM

SALT LAKE CITY – Two standout Utah football players were named as finalists for the Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award. The Utes are the only team this year with two finalists.

Defensive end Jonah Elliss and safety/offensive weapon Sione Vaki made the final cut for the award that is given annually to the most outstanding college football player of Polynesian ancestry that epitomizes great ability and integrity in the sport.

Both Elliss and Vaki were tremendous contributors for the Utes in 2023, stepping up in ways that went beyond the call of duty while the team faced an unprecedented amount of injuries.

Utah Safety/Offensive Weapon Sione Vaki

Due to injuries stacking up for the Utes, Vaki stepped in and played some running back for Utah against the Cal Golden Bears showcasing the Utah safety’s ability to play both sides of the ball in 2023.

Vaki posted 15 carries for 158 yards and two touchdowns in that game on offense, while adding four total tackles defensively.


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Vaki also impressed playing both ways against the USC Trojans the following week where the versatile player was Utah’s leading receiver. He recorded 5 catches for 149 yards and two touchdowns to lift the Utes to victory.

Against No. 5 Washington, Vaki produced four total tackles on defense and one timely sack to help keep the Utes within striking distance of the eventual Pac-12 Champions.

Offensively, Vaki produced four receptions for 67 total yards and one touchdown. His longest play of that day was his touchdown effort- a 53-yard catch with YAC.

Utah Defensive End Jonah Elliss

Originally slated to be second-string at the beginning of the year, Elliss was forced into early starting action in 2023 due to injuries and proved to be a force on the field.

Elliss’ efforts eventually moved him to the starting position and earned him the title of “Mayor of Sack Lake City”.

Elliss ended his season with 12 sacks which ranks first in FBS in sacks per game (1.20) in his 10 total games played. Elliss also racked up 16 tackles for loss and ranks fourth in FBS in TFL per game at (1.6).

The current “Mayor of Sack Lake City” has the highest sack total for the Utes since 2019 when former defensive end Bradlee Anae totaled 13 on the year. Elliss is currently tied for seventh all-time in single-season sacks at Utah.

Elliss produced a whopping 37 total tackles this year before his season-ending injury while also adding a forced fumble and three pass breakups. Elliss recorded a sack in four straight games and came away with multiple tackles for loss five times in 2023.

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on XInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Two Utes Named Finalists For Polynesian College Football POTY