NAMPA — Maliki Hoagland will swap his tool belt for some pads.
The ex-Ridgevue High offensive lineman is taking time off at Priority Electric in Nampa to end his playing career on a high note — 7,521 miles away. He will suit up one last time at the 31st Annual Down Under Bowl in Gold Coast, Australia, on July 5 and July 8.
The event is the largest American football championship tournament held outside of the United States. He leaves Sunday.
“I’m pretty excited just to go and see Australia in the first place,” Hoagland said. “It was really nice that someone outside of the football program recognized me. Football is just an added benefit. I’m just ready to go.”
The Down Under Bowl is a four-team tournament featuring players from the United States, New Zealand and Australia. This year’s event will include three American teams and one from New Zealand. They will be divided into two brackets with teams playing two games apiece. The winners of the first games will play each other in the championship, while the losers will meet in a consolation final.
Games will consist of four 12-minute quarters and be played according to high school rules.
Former Idaho NFL alums Jake Plummer and Rob Morris took part in previous years. Plummer, a Capital High graduate, played quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals and the Denver Broncos. Nampa High’s Morris won Super Bowl XLI with the Indianapolis Colts.
Hoagland is one of two Treasure Valley athletes who will be participating this year. Weiser graduate Mikaid Wall is the other. Wall was an All-3A Snake River Valley Conference second-team offensive lineman last year.
Hoagland earned all-conference honors as well. The 5-foot-8, 215-pounder was selected to the All-4A Southern Idaho Conference honorable mention team for the second year in a row this past season.
He even received a piece of a Kenworth truck. Ridgevue High principal Robert Gwyn handed him the emblem because an athletic director from another school called him up to ask, “Who is that 71? He hit my player like a truck.”
Hoagland also played in the East-West Shrine game last November.
“Maliki has one speed, so what we saw on Friday nights and what the other teams saw is what he did in practice too,” Ridgevue coach Tom DeWitz said. “He’s just extremely aggressive and likes contact. He really does. On Friday nights, he really looked to get a hit in every play.”
The representatives at Down Under Sports certainly thought so.
They personally sent DeWitz a letter on Dec. 8, 2018. Hoagland opened it up just hours later. He stared at it for a few seconds before texting his dad the news.
“I’m just proud of Maliki. I’m happy for him that he’s getting this opportunity because he was huge in the development of the program and where the program’s going right now quite honestly,” DeWitz said. “He was also a very good defensive lineman, but we just had to have him on the offensive line and we just couldn’t afford him getting tired or getting hurt or anything. There were certain guys we had to have, and he was one of them.”
But the family was already set to take a trip to New York with his younger brother, Treyson. However, upon hearing the news, Treyson immediately said, “Maliki is going.”
It still was going to cost around $5,000, though.
So Hoagland spent the next several months fundraising, getting a passport and making sure all of his shots were up to date. The only thing standing in his way now, is a 16-hour flight.
“I’ll probably end up sleeping,” Hoagland jested. “I can sleep almost anywhere.”
The two-and-a-half-year starter is the second player in program history to go. Kade Linder, who is playing at Montana Western, went two years ago.
The tournament will be Hoagland’s final time playing football. He elected not to pursue it in college. Hoagland will follow in his father’s footsteps and be an electrician. He’s going to enroll in a four-year trade program through the College of Western Idaho this fall.
But he’s not wired that way right now.
“It’s crazy. I think it will be more surreal as I get closer,” Hoagland said. “I feel like this is the perfect way to end it for me.”