HAWAII GROWN: Hanaoka honored with No. 1 jersey

Northwestern senior walk-on Chad Hanaoka, a 2014 'Iolani graduate, will wear No. 1 this season. Photo courtesy Northwestern Athletics.

Northwestern football has a tradition established in 2011 of giving the No. 1 jersey for the season to a deserving student-athlete.

This year’s recipient of that jersey is Chad Hanaoka a 2014 ‘Iolani alumnus who made his on-field debut for the Wildcats in the 2016 Outback Bowl as a redshirt freshman against Tennessee.

A 5-foot-6 senior running back, Hanaoka joined Northwestern in the fall of 2014 as a walk-on to the football team, but because he took so long to get admitted to the school, the Wildcats had already reached their roster limit.

Instead of practicing with the team on the field, Hanaoka used the time to become a member of the video staff for his first year, taking videos of practices and games, hoping to earn his shot the following year.

He did exactly that, becoming a member of the team, and despite getting little playing time over the past three seasons, Hanaoka remains an important part of the Wildcats.

Enough so that he was given the honor on Tuesday of wearing No. 1 this season.

“The No. 1 jersey, in our program, is used to recognize the young man who truly embodies the values and character of the Northwestern football family,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said in a press release. “It is worn by someone who consistently dedicates himself as a great teammate, an excellent student and an influential member of our community. It is more than a flashy number, here it represents a way of life. Chad started his Wildcats career as an intern in our video office, and is an absolute testament to the power of perseverance. He is beloved by his teammates, and brings a positive attitude every day in everything he does.”

Hanaoka got just one carry and one punt return last season but earned Academic All-Big Ten honors. He is majoring in biological sciences, with a concentration in molecular & developmental neurobiology, and is also the Vice President of Northwestern’s Uplifting Athletes chapter and the founder and president of NU’s Wishmakers, supporting the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“The jersey represents so much more than just me. It’s the legacy of the incredible players and even better people who wore the jersey before me,” Hanaoka said in a press release. “It’s this team, this family, that embraced a kid from Hawaii and truly became my ‘ohana, celebrating with me in times of triumph and laughter and lifting me up in times of hardship. To them, I owe it all.”

The Wildcats, who have had three straight winning seasons and are 27-12 over that span, open the 2018 campaign at Purdue on Aug. 30.

Northwestern’s Chad Hanaoka graduated in June and posed with running backs coach Lou Ayeni. Photo courtesy Northwestern Athletics.


  1. SEARIDER-DOGG August 9, 2018 1:48 am


  2. Richard Lewan MD October 30, 2018 1:27 am

    I have followed Northwestern Wildcat football since going to many games in college starting 1970. As a Hawaii resident serving my rural community on Kauai as a practicing physician, Chad’s story has many parallels to that of a walk on at Notre Dame (ie, Rudy). Chad has been an inspiration for the team and for those of us who know how hard the players on the team of a small Big Ten University have to work to bring their competition to a level where they can compete with top 20 teams consistently. It is not fluke that the team has already defeated 2 top 20 teams and narrowly missed the win over #5 Michigan. Our next big test is #3 Notre Dame who will be out for revenge with Northwestern having defeated them in the last 2 contests, both times when ND was ranked highly.
    As I have followed Chad and watched his recent press conference (yes, they gave him not only the #1 jersey but his own press conference, I am struck by the intelligence and determination he exemplifies. It is obvious he has made a huge contribution not just through his leadership and spirit, but now on the field literally taking defenders out with a block that flipped a much larger Wisconsin linebacker head over heels, protecting one of the nations better quarterbacks who just had knee surgery, and by pulling down a pass for a 14 yard gain in the victory over #20 Wisconsin.
    Chad, you have brought something special to this team and University. I know that you can bring something special to health care at home in Hawaii where you are needed. If you want to learn more about how your talents and leadership can make a difference on the islands, there is a standing invitation on Kauai for you to shadow a hospital-based geriatrician, get a letter of recommendation for medical school, and a future rotation experience to help you prepare for your career in Medicine! Mahalo nui loa for being such a standout representative of our state at one of the finest academic (and football) institutions in the country!

    PS. You have my permission to share my email with Chad if he wants to pursue my offers.

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