Kahanu Kia feels grateful, but he won’t lie, either.
UNLV’s offer on Wednesday made it a well of mixed emotions during this COVID-19 lockdown. The Punahou junior has eight FBS scholarship offers, as well as two Ivy League schools, Dartmouth and Princeton. The momentum in the recruitment of the 6-foot-2, 210-pound linebacker has picked up, but it was the cancellation of spring-break plans that were a downer.
“We had a plan. This coronavirus thing has messed up a lot of stuff. I was going to try to commit before the season, but I might be waiting it out. I want to go on unofficial trips,” said Kia, who has a 3.5 grade-point average. “We were supposed to go visit Utah and Stanford, but plans changed.”
In addition to the offers, there are a few more schools that have been in contact with Kia: Arizona, Nebraska and Stanford.
“I don’t know if these guys will end up offering me,” he said.
In fact, Kia was planning to attend Junior Day at Stanford until the school suspended on-campus classes and sports.
“Other schools here and there will pop up, give me a text real fast. I’m not trying to focus on that. I’m just working out and doing what I’m doing,” he said.
The first school to offer was Utah. A big bell ringer.
“I’m not going to lie. Utah was my childhood dream. My dad and mom went there. I’ve always rooted for the Utes,” Kia said.
Here’s his summary of the eight FBS offers.
Colorado: “Colorado was my third one in late November or early December. The coach, they all got hired at Michigan State. So I don’t have an offer from Michigan State, but I hope I get one. We’ll see.”
Hawaii: “That was from Coach (Jacob) Yoro. I mean, that’s the home town, so I’m always grateful for that. They’ll be trying something new, so that’s exciting to see.”
San Diego State: “That was cool. I didn’t really talk to them too much. They just sent me a long text about they’d like to offer me. I know a lot of guys from my school are there. When I get closer to a decision, I’ll try to talk to them.”
UNLV: “It was their DC, Coach (Peter) Hansen, I think. Hawaii, San Diego State, UNLV, the offer was on their first contact. I had a really good conversation with the coach today. He was telling me they’re trying to build something more. They have a whole new facility, and they’re going to play in the new (Raiders) stadium. The base turf will be UNLV’s turf.”
Utah: “The Utah one kind of came out of nowhere. I’d talked to them before at their camp in Redlands (Calif.). After that, there was no follow-up. I got my offer midseason, the day of our Waianae game. Coach (Lewis) Powell, the D-line coach, he recruits Hawaii. I got a text from him when I woke up. And he FaceTimed me and gave me the news. I was so happy.”
Washington State: “Washington State and Colorado had contact with me before they offered. This was with Mike Leach’s staff. They would check with me periodically. They sent a bunch of letters during the season and they offered at the end, the Monday before the Saint Louis game. They went to Mississippi State and I haven’t heard from them. I’ve heard from Rolo (new coach Nick Rolovich). Coach (Craig) Stutzmann came to Punahou just to check in and they re-offered me. It’s really cool to have the whole Hawaii connection. For me, it’s cool because they’re still going to have the high-powered offense.”
Kia is still considering the Ivy League opportunities.
“Ideally, I kind of want to find a place in the middle. I have to take visits, but I’m not putting Ivys aside. After the visits, whatever I feel comfortable with. I definitely want to go somewhere with high academic standards,” he said. “My dad and my mom give me their input, but at the end of the day, it’s between me and God, I guess. We still got a long ways to go. We want to make sure I can go on my mission. That’s one check mark. I need to serve my church.”
The lockdown has changed life. Life is now upside-down for many athletes. Kia believes the down time should not change the successful relationships that forged Punahou’s success.
“We still have to have seniors leading and discussing goals, but one thing we want to keep what we had last year and build off that. What we had was really satisfying the way everyone was in it and really worked their butts off. We want to continue that culture and embrace everyone,” he said.
Punahou went 10-2, losing only to nationally-ranked Saint Louis even with starting quarterback Hugh Brady sidelined by a knee injury in week two. John-Keawe Sagapolutele was stunning as a freshman in the shotgun as Punahou, boosted by an elite defense, finished No. 2 in the Star-Advertiser Football Top 10.
“John, we’re so happy for what he did. What he did as a freshman, he’s just going to continue to get better,” Kia said.
Kia is alone in the garage most days, working and working.
“Usually we have offseason workouts at Punahou, but it all got shut down. I’m fortunate enough to have a little setup in my garage that I’ve been using,” he said.
His father, Punahou offensive line coach Nate Kia, hasn’t been in the garage lately.
“He can probably out-lift me on the bench,” he said.