Revere’s Ivan Mertilus was sitting in the Chicago airport Tuesday morning when the Revere Journal reached him on his cellular phone.
The former St. Clement High School and Los Angeles Valley College football star was waiting to board a plane bound for Oakland and a connecting flight to Honolulu.
Ivan’s journey had begun earlier Tuesday morning when his mother, Beatrice, drove him to Logan Airport in East Boston.
“I thanked my mother for the ride and all her support in my life and she wished me good luck and to be safe,” said Ivan.
Mertilus was heading to Hawaii for the Hula Bowl Classic, a college football all-star game played annually at Aloha Stadium. This year’s game, which will be televised live Sunday by the CBS Sports Network, again features some of the top college players in the country who are hoping to be drafted and play in the National Football League. In fact, players are invited by the Hula Bowl Selection Committee based on their potential to play professional football.
Mertilus, a speedy and tenacious 6-foot-1-inch, 205-pound defensive back, received his prestigious invitation to the Hula Bowl after performing very well in the Tropical Bowl in Orlando, Fla. Mertilus had seven tackles and two PBUs (pass-breakups) while covering wide receivers from major college football programs.
Ivan’s superb performance no doubt caught the attention of NFL scouts at the game. The head coaches in the Hula Bowl are former NFL coaches Rex Ryan and Mike Singletary.
“I’ve never been to Hawaii,” said Mertilus, who
had two stellar seasons at LA Valley Community College before enrolling at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. “I’m excited to be in the Hula Bowl because it’s a big-time game. I’m definitely hoping to play well and do my thing.”
Ivan said he was hoping to wear jersey No. 24 in the Hula Bowl in tribute to the late Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant. “That’s a significant number for me. I’ve always worn No. 24 in high school because of Kobe,” said Ivan.