Kamehameha’s Ezra Evaimalo is staying home to play college football, while teammate Keola Downing is returning to his birthplace.
Evaimalo, a defensive end/linebacker, signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Hawaii and Downing, a punter, put pen to paper as a preferred walk-on for Boise State at a ceremony today at Kamehameha’s Koaia classroom.
Evaimalo, who is 6 foot 2 and 215 pounds, was offered a scholarship by UH during his sophomore year.
“A lot of my commitment had to do with playing in front of everyone who helped me along this journey,” he said. “Playing in front of my family and my friends is going to be a really big thing and that’s one of the main reasons why I committed to UH.”
Evaimalo, the defensive MVP of the ILH this past season, added: “Giving back to my family in one of the only ways I know I can, by playing football.”
Evaimalo said he liked the UH coaches and the direction the program is heading in. The Rainbow Warriors advanced to the Mountain West Conference title game and will play in the Hawaii Bowl on Tuesday against BYU.
“I like that they’re turning around, but besides football, they’re super nice and welcoming,” he said. “They made it clear the love and aloha was here to stay.”
Warriors coach Abu Maafala, a Kamehameha alum who played for UH and Cal, sees a bright future for Evaimalo.
“As a former D-lineman myself, the No. 1 thing that pops off the screen with Ezra is the amount of power he can generate out of his stance,” Maafala said. “That’s something a lot of guys don’t recognize, but that to me is the No. 1 thing to play defensive line. You want to reset the line of scrimmage and be disruptive. He’s going to be a really nice piece for them in the near future.”
Downing, who is 6 feet and 170 pounds, was born in Boise, Idaho, and moved to Hawaii a year later.
He said he went to football camps over the summer at Boise State, Oregon State, San Diego State, Sacramento State and USC.
“When I went up to the Boise State camp, I actually won the punt competition and the kickoff competition, which really gave me a lot of exposure and the coaches ended up really liking me,” Downing said. “I kept in contact with them and a couple of months ago, they offered me a walk-on spot.”
Downing’s parents, Laurie and Kainoa, are Kamehameha graduates. Laurie said she moved to Boise for work and Kainoa joined her there after they got married.
Downing said he and his parents used to visit Boise every winter and ski at Bogus Basin. He said he considers Boise to be his second home.
Downing credits punting coach Aaron Perez of Chris Sailer Kicking with helping him get to this point. Downing and Perez met over the summer in California, and Downing said, “I couldn’t have done it without him.”
“The thing with Keola is, if you look at him, he’s got a lot of room to mature, strength-wise he can get bigger and stronger from the base level,” said Perez, who punted for UCLA. “He’s super talented, he’s super clean with his hands and he punts directionally really well, which is stuff that’s hard to teach.”