Keala Santiago has a dream.
Getting there is including a stop at Aloha Stadium on Sunday, where the Nike Combine was held under a relentless afternoon sun. The event drew football players from seventh to 11th grade.
Many of the high schoolers are on the cusp of becoming premier players and contributors to their respective schools. But a few of them were a bit familiar. Santiago, an all-state first-team selection from Kahuku, made the drive in.
In many ways, he has already achieved what the 650 or so combine participants are reaching for. The Kahuku junior was an all-state defensive back last fall, a playmaker with the ability to stuff the run and return kicks the the end zone.
Santiago’s teammate, sophomore Ra Elkington, had a lineman’s perspective. He measured at 6-4 and 309 pounds before taking the field for the various drills.
“It went all right. I could’ve done better. I did pretty good on the shuttle run (5.2 seconds),” said Elkington, an offensive lineman. “It was a great experience. I got to know where I stand with my class, where I stand nationally. I know I’ve got to work hard and get ready for this summer and football season.”
Kahuku represented with about 14 players from the varsity, Elkington added. It was Red Raiders coach Lee Leslie advised his players to attend the combine, which was free of cost, during a team meeting last week.
Elkington didn’t train for the combine, but has no regrets.
“I’d recommend everybody to go so you know where you stand. The laser for the 40, having NFL guys there helping. It was cool,” he added.
San Diego Chargers linebacker Manti Te‘o, the former Punahou and Koolauloa (Pop Warner) standout, was among the NFL helpers.
After his effort today, Konawaena defensive back Luca Vartic has been invited to the Nike regional combine. Drew Kobayashi, Saint Louis’ standout wide receiver, posted some of the most impressive numbers of the day.
“There are players on the mainland with higher scores, so I have to practice and get better for the next combine I got to, hopefully get a better score,” Kobayashi said. “I feel good about my shuttle time (4.03). All my scores were kind of up there. I was hoping for a better score.”
Kobayashi has been busy this winter, playing forward for the Saint Louis basketball team, which is having one of its finest seasons in recent memory.
“I’m probably going up (to the mainland) for a lot of combines and camps in the summer. I treat basketball as a way to keep me in condition for track,” said Kobayashi, who has played hoops since he was 6.
At the end of February, Kobayashi plans to travel to Las Vegas for the the Pylon 7-on-7 tournament. He played in it last year with players from California, Utah and Nevada (Bishop Gorman).
There was a massive crew of volunteers on hand. One of them was Saint Louis quarterbacks coach Vince Passas, who helped out on the 40-yard dash, encouraging athletes as they finished.