Meet Anelu Lafaele, one of Wisconsin football's 4-star outside linebacker commits

Acollaboration between the Lafaele family and a prominent recruiting outlet created quite a unique commitment announcement.
Anelu Lafaele, a projected outside linebacker for the University of Wisconsin football program's 2024 class, went live on 247Sports’ YouTube page July 11 with his parents and friends at Kaneohe Sandbar in Hawaii to announce his college choice. The idea for the gorgeous backdrop came after Lafaele’s father, former Hawaii defensive lineman Michael Lafaele, met with a friend who lives around that area.
With assurances about the internet connection, Michael, a former all-conference lineman, presented his pitch to the outlet.
“I came up with the idea with the boat, doing it on the water to showcase Hawaii,” Michael said. “I thought that was gonna be really cool for Anelu. So he loved it and then Anelu wanted to include his friends in it. So when we talked to 247(Sports), they came up with that idea (of), ‘Why doesn't he push his friends in?’”
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Five of Lafaele’s friends were a part of the video. Four sat behind him and his parents wearing his top four schools – Arizona State, Hawaii, UW and Washington. Lafaele first pushed one wearing Sun Devils gear into the water, then walked over and did the same to another in Huskies apparel.
Down to Hawaii and UW, a fifth friend came on screen to tackle the one wearing the Rainbow Warriors sweatshirt into the water, leaving the Badgers as Anelu’s clear choice.
“Now the tackling of Hawaii, that was all Anelu and his friends,” Michael said with a laugh.
Lafaele became UW’s 18th verbal commitment for its 2024 class. Here are five things to know about Lafaele, including how two Badgers staffs held him as a priority and what he could bring to Matt Mitchell’s outside linebacker room.
Highly coveted prospect
247Sports evaluated Lafaele as a four-star recruit and No. 20 edge rusher in the 2024 class, while On3 and Rivals rate him as a three-star prospect.
247Sports lists offers from his top four schools and other programs such as Arizona, BYU, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon State, Tennessee, Utah, Vanderbilt and Washington State. He initially released a list of top 7 schools in April that included the Sun Devils, Rainbow Warriors, Fighting Irish, Beavers, Badgers, Huskies and Utes.
Anelu Lafaele UW photo shoot photo 1
Anelu Lafaele is one of two projected outside linebackers who are committed to the UW 2024 class that are rated a four-star recruit by at least one of the recruiting outlets.
COURTESY Michael Lafaele
Lafaele took an official visit to UW the weekend of June 2-4, while also disclosing trips to Arizona State in May and Hawaii last month.
Double UW recruit
The UW staff under former coach Paul Chryst – which included Jim Leonhard as interim coach and defensive coordinator, and Bobby April III as outside linebackers coach – initially recruited Lafaele. He made a November unofficial visit to Madison last season, after Chryst’s firing, and watched the Badgers’ win over Maryland.
April eventually moved on to take over defensive coordinator duties at Stanford, but coach Luke Fickell and Mitchell, Fickell's outside linebackers coach and special teams coordinator, continued to target Lafaele.
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“It was awesome just to feel wanted from both (of) the staffs,” Lafaele said. “I think it was just a really big hit, just from coach Fickell calling me, the head coach. That's what really just made me feel like this is the place I want to be.”
Why Wisconsin?
Lafaele announced his decision in July, but he has been ready to become a Badger for quite some time.
“I wanted to commit earlier when coach April was on staff,” Lafaele said. “I was ready to commit then, but then they left. Then the new coaches came in. I wanted to meet them in person before I said anything.
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“So I'd say the second day of the official visit is when I told them I committed.”
The trips to Madison convinced him that UW “felt like home.”
“The first time was with the old staff,” Lafaele said. “They just really let me know that I was a top priority for them. ... And then they left, and then coach Fickell came in town.
“And then like, as soon as he got into office, I just got a random FaceTime call from him. And he was just telling me that he watched my film, reviewed my game, and he said that he's coming for me. That was really what made me just really think that Wisconsin is the place for me.”
Hawaii native's influence
Lafaele sits in line as the fourth Hawaii native to become a Badger since the class of 2020, joining outside linebacker Nick Herbig, safety Kamo’i Latu and wide receiver Trech Kekahuna. He said that Herbig, a second-team All-American last season who was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2023 NFL Draft, told him that UW was a place where he could keep his head straight and was safe.
“He was just like an older brother,” Lafaele said. “Just there to just talk to me, just be able to give me advice, opinions he has on some things.
“He was just in my ear here all the time telling me how much Wisconsin could bring me up to the next level and just be able to seek the path for me to go to the NFL.”
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Eye on development
Michael said that Saint Louis School, Lafaele’s former program, ran a 3-4 defense. His son learned how to rush the passer and defend the run as an edge rusher while dropping into coverage within that system.
Lafaele will now join his father at Farrington High School for his senior season, however, a move that the recruit felt was “the right move” and also gives him the ability to graduate early. Michael is the Governors’ associate head coach and defensive coordinator, and there are expectations for Anelu to move around in his scheme.
Anelu Lafaele UW photoshoot photo 2
COURTESY Michael Lafaele
“We run a 4-2-5, but the personnel we have is kind of like a 30 (three-linemen) front,” Michael said. “So Anelu’s like that edge player that can also drop into coverage, so he's actually going to be all over the place. We're excited about what we're going to do. It’s a defense that’s catered for the front seven, the front six actually, to really get after it.
“Anelu’s going to be one of those guys, the marquee guys to kind of set the tone for our defense every game. We’re going to rush him off the edge, we’re going to drop him into coverage. He's gonna be blitzing. He’s also going to move inside and play inside backer in certain packages.”
Lafaele and Thomas Heiberger, who On3 evaluates as a four-star recruit, are anticipated to join Mitchell’s room as projected outside linebackers in this class.
“They told me the same thing as the old staff,” Lafaele said. “Like a field side ‘backer. Being able to blitz from the weak side and just being able to drop back in coverage.”

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