Familiar faces Meki Lanakila Pei, Isaiah 'Zay' Malloe join Hawaii football program

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Jun. 24—Two safeties with Pac-12 ties will be joining the University of Hawaii football team.

Meki Lanakila Pei, who played in 10 games for Washington last year, began organized offseason training with the Rainbow Warriors this week.

Isaiah "Zay " Malloe—son of UCLA special teams coordinator Ikaika Malloe, a Kamehameha Schools graduate, former Washington linebacker-safety, and former UH assistant coach—will begin UH's bridge summer session on Monday.

Pei was an All-State linebacker as an 'Iolani School senior in 2019. He was named the defensive MVP of the 2020 Polynesian Bowl. He turned down a scholarship offer from UH to join Washington in 2020.

But after two years at Washington, he decided he needed a change.

"Washington wasn't the place for me, and I already had a good relationship with Coach (Jacob ) Yoro, " Pei said of the Warriors' defensive coordinator. "With Coach Timmy Chang coming in, it was an opportunity to start fresh with a new head coach, I guess, and come home and represent the home state. And it's easier for my grandpa (to attend games ). He's my last grandparent alive."

Pei, who projects to play safety or nickelback, remembered the challenging transition during his freshman year at Washington. "Coming back home, everyone has the same respect for each other, " he said of training with his new teammates. "I loved it. I feel more comfortable in the locker room compared to how it was in Washington. It was a nice week."

Malloe, who recently graduated from Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien, Wash., lived in Hawaii in 2008 when his father coached the Warriors' special teams and defensive linemen. "It's definitely home over there, " Malloe said of Hawaii. "My family is there, except for my dad and mom. All my cousins, aunties, uncles, grandparents are all over there."

For three years, Malloe carried the Hawaiian flag onto the field before Kennedy Catholic football games. "I've always had pride in my Hawaiian culture, " said Malloe, who noted his ancestry is more than 50 % Hawaiian. "I carried the flag out just to show pride in my culture."

Malloe, who is 5-11 and 160 pounds, played free safety in the Lancers' cover-3 secondary. "Kennedy Catholic was known for its offense, but he was the heart and soul of the defense, " said Brandon Huffman, national recruiting editor for 247Sports. "He's a real instinctual player, a real smart player. He's not the biggest guy in the world, but he's a guy who would come into the (tackle ) box and lay the hat. He has great ball skills. He can read the quarterback really well, just a smart player. He's the quarterback of the defense. He's a hell of a pickup for Hawaii."—