Q: How many times did you go to Hawaii to recruit Manti?
Weis: I went to Hawaii three times, but one time was for the [Hawaii] bowl game.
Q: What lengths did you go to, to make that long trip? I'd heard anecdotally that you tried to make at least some of them as short as possible just so you could get back to work. In other words, you don't just pick up and leave South Bend for Hawaii. But, obviously, Manti was worth it.
Weis: The first visit was the week of a bye game for Notre Dame. I took a flight at 10 a.m., on a Friday morning out of Chicago to Honolulu — it landed a little after 2 p.m., Honolulu time, which got me there in time for his 3 p.m. game. I went to the game and then went straight back to the airport and got a on flight through LAX to South Bend. I got home around noon on Saturday. No hotel.
Q: Since Manti was desired by so many schools, how gratified are you that he picked Notre Dame? What does that say about Charlie Weis and Notre Dame? Was Manti your best defensive recruit?
Weis: Manti was not only the best defensive recruit, but he was what the defense sorely needed. He was a front-line player with charisma who was a leader both on and off the field. One of the happiest moments I have had in recruiting — and I have had several — was watching Manti on TV choose Notre Dame.
Q: What did you learn about the Hawaiian culture?
Weis: I actually learned a bunch about Hawaiian culture through two individuals — former governor of Hawaii Linda Lingle and Brian Te'o, Manti's dad. It was ironic that on my first trip to Hawaii, I happened to sit next to Governor Lingle. She was enlightening and informative and gave me a great vision of Hawaiian culture. Brian Te'o only fortified this vision. I admired his undying devotion to his family. He would actually drive Manti and Roby Toma to and from school each day, which was roughly 60 miles each way. He would work at his full-time job and then also was an assistant coach at the high school. He is a wonderful man and has a wonderful family.
Q: What was the process of playing in the 2008 Hawaii Bowl? At least part of that decision was so that Notre Dame could be in Hawaii for Manti to see/experience.
Weis: We did not pick the Hawaii Bowl because of Manti, but it definitely positively affected the recruiting process. Of the bowl choices we had at that time, spending Christmas in Hawaii didn't sound too bad.
Q: How did you convince Manti and his family that there would be enough of a Polynesian/Mormon support group in South Bend?
Weis: When Manti visited Notre Dame, he met the Mormon bishop at the local temple near South Bend who discussed the strong Mormon following he had. In addition, there were a large number of Polynesians in the MBA program at Notre Dame and several fellow classmates from the Punahou School.
Q: Have you had a chance to see him play this year?
Weis: I have seen bits and pieces of his play this year, and it looks as though he has been exceptional.
Q: Do you keep in touch with Manti?
Weis: Yes, I do keep in touch with Manti, and I also stay in touch with his family. However, I try to make sure that it is in a manner as to not conflict in any way with Notre Dame football, Coach Kelly and Manti's final season. I will always root for Manti wherever he is.