Favorites, science and family: Kekaula Kaniho

Kahuku defensive back Kekaula Kaniho has six interceptions this season and returned five of them for touchdowns. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.
Kahuku defensive back Kekaula Kaniho has six interceptions this season and returned five of them for touchdowns. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

Kahuku star defensive back Kekaula Kaniho was featured in Tuesday’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser. You can read it here (subscription required). Here’s more on Kaniho:

Kekaula Kaniho, Kahuku
6-0, 170, Sr.
Scholarship offers: Army, Boise State, Colorado, Hawaii, UNLV, San Diego State, Vanderbilt, Washington State.

Q & A / Favorites

Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks
> “I like the fire he plays with. He flies around the field with so much energy and passion. And the fact that is he is undersized, he plays bigger than his size.”

> “None, I just respect players that play the game well.”

Food (at home):
Beef Stew
> “My dad (Jarrett Kaniho) makes the beef stew. From scratch. He gets the meat and makes it into squares. Puts in water, Potatoes, carrots, I forget the rest, but it’s delicious.”

Food (eating out):
Prime Rib
> “Buzz’s Steakhouse in Kailua. We went there for my mom’s birthday in August.”

Hobby outside of sports:
> ‘It’s usually with Keala (Santiago) and Stokes (Nihipali-Botelho) and Codie (Sauvao) at BYU (Hawaii)’s game room. They have five or six lanes. It’s small, but it’s nice. My high score is in the low 200s. Keala’s high is 220. Usually it’s 150s between the four of us. We made a joke after football, we want to make our own team for Kahuku. I think there used to be one.”

> “Not just because it’s boxing, but the whole storyline. The character has the heart of a champion. He’s not afraid of anybody. I’ve seen it about four times.”

TV show:
> “It’s pretty realistic and crazy, the way the languages are diverse and they can’t understand each other. The main character is crazy. It’s kind of a violent show, but once you get past that, it’s pretty good.”

Do you have Viking blood?
> “I think the closest would be Norwegian and Irish.”

Music artist:
Zac Brown Band
> “That’s the pre-game right before you hit the field. They have a couple of reggae songs, too. My uncle likes them, too. He went to their concert in Cali.”

Teacher (elementary through high school)
> “All of them, they’ve all helped become a better student. I have a bunch of great teachers every year. It’s hard to pick one.”

Note: Kaniho’s is GPA: 3.9 and he is an NCAA qualifier

Class (elementary through high school):
> “Anything to do with science. Me and Keala actually had AP biology together last year. My parents stress school first, definitely.
“I like everything. Biology and chemistry and stuff are interesting in their unique ways. Also human anatomy. We dissected a pig in freshman year. Last year, we did a cow’s eye and a bird’s leg. I want to go into biomedical engineering. it’s a pretty diverse field from everything like the tools in surgery to research to prosthetic limbs. That’s what I want to go into.
“When i went to sports medicine a couple of years ago, Pat Ariki was actually talking to me about it, asking what I wanted to go into. ‘You said you should go into that. There’s such a need for it.’ ”

On returning five interceptions for TDs this season:
> “I don’t really think about it. I’m just trying to make plays when they come and it helps when everybody else does their job blocking their tails off for me.”

> “My dad was my first coach for everything and he always preached to me that you’ve got to work hard and put all your effort into any goal you want to achieve. I started to understand the value of repetition probably in sixth grade, between all the sports. Once you get into one it applies to all the others.”

Dedication to football
“My goals from awhile back was to get a scholarship in Division I. So everything that I did was with that goal in mind, and there’s a lot of staying home from going out with friends and family parties to reach that goal. All the little things are important. I’m about reaching that goal.”

Sleep vs. Late Nights
> “I gotta go to sleep. On school nights I’m usually in bed by 9. Up by 5:15, 5:30.”

Leaving Kamehameha
> “I was there from kindergarten to 10th grade. I just wanted to come back home and play where all my dad, my papa, my uncles played and be part of the legacy. Education is what you make out of it, by challenging yourself. We have eight or nine AP courses this year. I could be wrong.
“I’m still friends with all the guys there, but I wouldn’t say I miss anything about it. My parents left it up to me.”

Place to relax:
> “At home.”

> “Greatness is the result of repeated intentional action.”

What your mom (Misty Kaniho) always says that you can’t forget:
> “Make good decisions.”

What your dad (Jarrett) always says that you can’t forget:
> “Work hard and be humble.”

What your position coach Keala Santiago always say that you can’t forget:
> “You didn’t come here to play corner or play safety. You’re a DB.”

How does football affect your daily life during the season and offseason?
> “Football definitely controls my life all year. Between the season and off season, nothing changes. All my time & energy is focused on the goals I set for myself and our team. There’s a lot of sacrifices I have to make to be able to train hard, sleep early, eat correctly, study the game (watching film), and keep my body healthy (a loooot of stretching).”

So many players go to private schools, but it seems like more and more are staying home at Kahuku. What’s your perspective on this?
> “Being at Kamehameha first, it’s funny you asked this haha. There’s so much family tradition & legacy at Kahuku that there’s kind of an unspoken rule that you come home or stay home and play for Kahuku. Being third generation to play at Kahuku, there’s no better feeling than playing for your family and community on the same field that your parents and grandparents played on.”

What do you like to do — or what’s something you’re good at — that would surprise most people?
> “I like to build Legos. When I was in elementary I was into Legos. I still have my Indiana Jones Legos from sixth grade, I made Iao Valley out of Legos. I just got legos this past Christmas. It was a gift from one of my uncles, you can make a jet, helicopter or boat.”

What is your ultimate dream?
> “Build prosthetic limbs for people and give them hope for a better quality of life.”

What is the history or background of your first and last name? I know there’s a legacy of Kanihos in Lahaina.
> “My great papa Philip Kaniho was one of 16 siblings from Lahaina, Maui. He was a standout football and basketball player at Lahainaluna High School and later traveled with the Original Harlem Globetrotters and the Hawaii All-Stars basketball teams. He was only able to play sports because his oldest brother sacrificed working at an early age so he and his other brothers could play. Because that sacrifice my great grandpa Philip Kaniho promised his dad and family he would do his best to make the Lahaina Kaniho name proud. Sports was a way he was able to do that and sports allowed him to travel the world.

“I’m humbled to represent my last name and continue my Papa Pilipo’s legacy. He and my Great Grandma Winona Kaniho moved to Kaaawa to raise my papa Clarence Kaniho and his four siblings. My family has been in Kaaawa and attending Kahuku High School ever since. My Papa Clarence (Kaniho) played at Kahuku high school and was a paniolo at Kualoa Ranch where he raised my dad and his four siblings. My Papa Clarence coached youth football and basketball and coached a couple of my current coaches when he coached for the Koolauloa Red Raider Pop Warner program.

“My dad was a defensive back and wide receiver at Kahuku High School and was teammates with a few of my coaches while playing for my papa and at Kahuku high school. My dad played for coach Keala Santiago and coach (Darren) D.J. Johnson while at Kahuku, so I am the second generation to play for coach Keala. My brother Kaonohi and I are blessed and thankful to follow the tradition of our family and represent the Red Raider community best we can.”


  1. Red Raider 4 Life November 15, 2016 4:38 am

    I remember your dad coaching us at Swanzy beach park and bringing your dad along as our ball boy. Good memories, before they tore down that mom and pop store with the barber next door and built the 7-eleven across the street, hanabada days.
    You and your teammates represent all that came before you with honor and class. So proud of all of you.
    96730 in the house.
    Kahana Boy c/o 87

  2. grabum.bythe.puppy.gate November 15, 2016 6:53 am

    proud of this young man

  3. Manley November 15, 2016 8:46 am

    I remember his great grand pop Philip use to be HPD policeman and patrol the Kaaawa area. He use to work with Jimmy Moses from Kaaawa. Back in those days 1 policeman patrol from Kualoa to Kawela bay, pass Crawfords Home. He was a very nice man and patrolled with dignity. His window was open so he could wave to people and yell at kids . Nowadays HPD window broke,A/C on, no more public contact. Auwe

  4. Big Red! November 15, 2016 10:36 am

    Awesome article and a perfect example of a Red Raider! Good luck Kaula, one more to go MR. PIC 6!!

  5. DOMEZ November 15, 2016 11:00 am

    Very proud of you Kekaula, thanks for the awesome season. You was brought up on solid foundation for sure, great kid on and off the field. Your gonna go far in life, you have been taught the secrets to success.
    Don’t hold back, like dad said give it your all and finish your season strong……alofa atu……..

  6. DOMEZ November 15, 2016 11:02 am


  7. DaKineStuff November 15, 2016 11:23 am

    I really love Kesi Ah Hoy & that “IT” factor he brings to the game but I truly feel Kekaula should’ve been ScoringLives DPOY.. But that’s just my opinion..

  8. ??? November 15, 2016 11:47 am

    Keiki has a good head on his shoulders and he can play football. Parents did a great job…..

  9. Searider86 November 15, 2016 12:26 pm

    Great article about a great kid! God Bless, MyMan!

  10. TheHeartlessPrick November 15, 2016 12:40 pm

    Player Of The Year….guarantee

  11. Hadafakaya November 15, 2016 5:48 pm

    Your Grandpa Phillip K. while on duty in Kahuku use to always talk to us plantation bad boys. Him, J. Moses , Fuller from Laie, and another guy. They use to run a radio cord from their patrol car so they could hear dispatch, then we use to play basketball in the old Kahuku Gym. He had a beautiful set shot and always had a big smile! Handsome bugga, nice guy and respectful to us kids. WE all made it, none of us boys had any police records or went to jail. Majority of us ended up all in Vietnam and made it back in one piece. Congrats braddah, you da man!

  12. Hau’ulaBoy November 15, 2016 7:05 pm

    Great article, great kid, great legacy. Way to go and represent for the community. He will go down as one of the greatest, on and off the field. After all the hate on this forum about the kids of this community and school, nice to see an article that can dispel the sterotypes that some have given. RR4L

  13. AOK November 15, 2016 9:41 pm

    Respect this young man

  14. Hauula93 November 15, 2016 10:09 pm

    Great job kekaula… Your grandfather was my first football coach and he would always have us come over his house to lose weight, cuz we was overweight for pop warner… He was hard on us, but always brought the best out in us… Love that man… And you remind me of your Dad.. He played just like you and always was humble off the field… I’ll be looking forward to see you playing on Saturdays…Good luck Hawaiian…

  15. Northshore November 16, 2016 6:18 am

    Take note about how important the legacy and community support is to this young man and ended up being a true RRFL. After attending Kamehameha from kindergarten to 10th grade, his heart drove him back to his roots. It doesn’t have to take someone to attend a private school to achieve their goals. It’s up to each individual as to how they study in a public school and how their parents emphasize the importance of education besides playing sports. He will remember the last two years at Kahuku and always be proud to say I’m a Red Raider for Life. The up and coming Red Raiders will look up to him and stay home (Kahuku) and end up being a true Red Raider for Life. Good luck on Saturday and wish the best in the future. We’re all proud of our school, community and talented athletes, boys and girls. Go Red Raiders and bring home the gold.

  16. Education First November 16, 2016 10:16 am

    Worked with Kekaula up on the hill years ago. He was always a hard worker who took his academics seriously. Congratulations to him. I remember when he decided to leave, many of the coaches from both football and basketball were quite disappointed.

  17. Hau’ulaBoy November 16, 2016 10:27 pm

    @Education 1st. After all the smack talk on these kids and this community about their education. Thats all you have to say. Too funny.

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