Just a couple years back, David Hallums had hopes for his son, soon to be a teenager.
Hopes for academic achievement. Football, it seems, has already opened doors for KJ Hallums, an eighth grader at Punahou. Hallums earned top performer honors in his age group at the elite Polynesian Bowl Combine over the weekend in Mesquite, Nev.
Hallums was one of three eighth-graders invited back to battle the next day against varsity players. That opened eyes. Quickly. Washington State responded by becoming the first university to offer a scholarship. Head coach Nick Rolovich spoke to Hallums and his father, former Hawaii basketball player and Pearl City football coach David “Kawika” Hallums.
“It was over the phone. He wasn’t at the combine,” KJ Hallums said. “He talked to me, too. He just told me he heard that I got MVP at the combine and he told me to keep on working. Then he offered me the scholarship and I was, like, panicking in my mind trying to contain everything. I didn’t want to make a scene in front of all these people. He said, ‘I want to offer you a scholarship to Washington State.’”
KJ Hallums has a 3.8 grade-point average and runs the 40-yard dash in 5.2 seconds. Not bad for a 6-foot-2, 278-pound lineman. Not surprising, either. Hallums put in work day after day through the pandemic. Sprinting with Kenny Patton’s Speed and Quickness group. Training with O-line guru Brian Derby since third grade. Playing with the Metro Tigers and coach Nate Kia. Working out with the Trench Dawgz in rugged one-on-one sessions. Working out with coach Francis Silva in the weight room. Boxing with coaches Kimo Boyett, Garrett Chestikoff and Ma‘a Tanuvasa.
“It truly takes a village to raise a child,” said his mother, Annette Almarez.
Hallums’ first combine, however, thousands of miles from home, was like nothing else.
“That was nerve-wracking,” he said.
Among the varsity-level, one-on-one battles for the young Buffanblu middle schooler was a matchup with Saint Louis defensive lineman Alaka‘i Molina. The Crusader was later named one of the defensive MVP finalists.
“For the one-on-ones, I got to see how the upperclassmen would do things. I really like it. It was fun. The Trench Dawgz really got me ready for that one, Coach Kip (Akana) and Coach Whit (Fehoko). At the combine, there’s this guy, Alaka‘i. He really brought the power, the hands, the feet. It was really fun going against him,” Hallums said.
Hallums got to see plenty of his friends from the islands. He also made new friends, including the sons of former Hawaii standout running back Junior Lopati, who now resides in Salt Lake City. Hallums and his family had an unofficial reunion in SLC, visiting his grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins.
He has ample footsteps to follow. After graduating from Kamehameha, oldest sister Tiyana Hallums played volleyball at Gonzaga and recently completed her master’s degree. Sister Tehani Hallums plays for Grand Canyon. A cousin, Manoa Hallums, plays running back for Mililani.
Next up for Hallums, more training.
“My main goal is to make my family proud in whatever way they want to see me. Provide for them, do good in football, school, everything. That’s basically my goal,” he said.
Beyond football in the fall — awaiting an official announcement in Hawaii — Hallums likes to wrestle.
“This year, we only had virtual workouts, but last year (2019-20), I actually competed in seventh grade and that was fun. I was 215 or 220,” said Hallums, who worked out against eighth and ninth graders. “I think that’s what I’m going to do after football.”
Hallums is also leaning toward studying Computer Science.
“I took a look at the program (at Washington State) because I’m trying to work into that. Last year, I had a class in tech at Punahou, making up a game. I want to try and actually get fully invested in it,” he said.
Those are some of the words that makes dad proud.
“My message to him and my older kids has always been nothing in life will ever be handed to you. You have to crash the party with hard work and sacrifice,” he said. “And always remain humble and remember your early beginnings. Leave no doubt.”
Top 3 movies/shows
1. “Avengers: Endgame.”
2. “Avengers: Infinity War.”
“I’ve been binge watching Marvel on Disney Plus. I just like superheroes, too.
3. “Forest Gump.”
“I just like how Forest Gump kept on running, pushing through. I just liked his whole character.”
Top 3 favorite foods
“There’s this Danish dish called frikedeller. It’s a combination of different meats, mostly pork, kind of like a patty but smaller and a little taller. You can eat it with rice, anything you want. My grandmother (Vibeke Almarez) makes it.
“My mom makes almost the same things, but my favorite is lasagna. Sometimes, I help. It’s either mixing something. I don’t know how to help, she just tells me what to do. I always wash dishes.”
“I make it. Usually I get it on sourdough bread. American cheese and Swiss cheese. I have pickles with it.”
Body Armor drink, orange/mango.
Top 3 music artists
1. Paul Anka – “Put Your Head on my Shoulder”.
2. Redbone – “Come and Get Your Love.”
3. Queen – “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
New life skill: Boxing
“I’m also learning more about weightlifting, too. Before the pandemic, I was just starting to get into it. Now, I know more things to do. I don’t have lifting equipment. I work out with Coach Francis Silva at 24-Hour (Fitness).”
“Shout outs definitely, Coach Derby, Coach Nate, Coach Kenny, Coach Kip and Coach Whit, and most importantly, my family, and all my coaches from Metro. Coach Derby and my Metro coaches, Coach Dean (Nomura). Coach Kimo Boyete, Garrett Chestikoff and Ma‘a Tanuvasa (Central Oahu Boxing Club). Coach Eddie Hayashi.”