By design, Trey Kodama came up a few credits shy of completing his business degree at Pacific University last spring.
Kodama was on track to finish his undergraduate work in finance and marketing in four years, but held off on taking his final class until the fall, thereby extending his football career with the Boxers and giving himself an opportunity to play one more game in Hawaii.
The fifth-year senior and Kamehameha graduate returns to the Kapalama campus Saturday for Pacific’s game against Occidental (Calif.) in the first NCAA Division III game to be held in Hawaii. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m.
“Football was definitely a reason I came back, other than growing as a person emotionally and spiritually,” Kodama said. “It definitely was an offseason I took a little bit more serious knowing, ‘Hey, you have this opportunity of a lifetime to come back again, to come play at home and to leave this place a better place than I found it.’ ”
Kodama, a first-team All-Northwest Conference selection last season, is listed atop the Pacific two-deep at weakside linebacker for the game at Kamehameha’s Kunuiakea Stadium and is among 16 Hawaii high school graduates on the Boxers’ travel roster.
Kodama’s varsity career at Kamehameha coincided with the field renovation at Kunuiakea Stadium. So Saturday’s game will be the 2012 graduate’s first opportunity to play a game on the Kamehameha campus since his sophomore year.
“It’s definitely going to bring back a lot of memories,” Kodama said. “Playing sports you go though a lot of things with your teammates and you grow as a person. I’m going to take few minutes before the game to reflect on that and really be grateful for all the opportunities Kamehameha Schools and the football program provided to get me to this point.”
Along with having Kamehameha graduates on the roster, Pacific coach Keith Buckley said the scenic value from Kapalama Heights factored into the choice of venue for the game.
“Standing up in the stadium there at Kamehameha is an incredible sight to see,” Buckley said. “That for me, not being from Hawaii, was something that did have an appeal for me.
“Standing at the 50-yard line and seeing Diamond Head and out to the ocean and to the harbor, that played a little bit of a role in it.”
Along with the players from Hawaii, the Pacific coaching staff includes former Pac-Five and Pacific quarterback P.J. Minaya, now in his third season as wide receivers coach and video coordinator. The Hanalani graduate is also an assistant with the Pacific track and field program.
Minaya ranks ninth among Oahu quarterbacks in career passing yardage with 6,427 and his 3,765 in 2009 is the second highest single-season mark, trailing only Timmy Chang’s 3,985 a decade earlier. He went on to throw for 3,684 yards and 37 touchdowns at Pacific.
Punahou graduate Nick Schilla is in his first season as an assistant offensive line coach one year removed from earning second-team All-Northwest Conference honors.
Buckley leaned heavily on recruiting Hawaii players while reviving the football program in 2009 and relied early on the contacts of former defensive coordinators Jacob Yoro and Marc Moody. Moody is now a graduate assistant at the University of Hawaii.
Buckley comes to Hawaii twice a year and he’s established a connection with local coaches over the years. He’s entrusting Minaya with helping to keep the pipeline flowing from the islands to Forest Grove, Ore.
“That’s a big thing for us in this program,” Buckley said of Minaya’s progression from player to coach.
“I think it’s very valuable if guys want to look at the coaching profession that right after college they jump right in and get to see first hand what college coaching all about and the work load it requires.
“P.J.’s doing a fantastic job coaching our wide receivers and is really growing into a very good recruiter for us as well.”
Buckley said he envisioned playing a game in Hawaii when he took over the program seven years ago and Saturday’s game caps three days of festivities celebrating Pacific’s relationship with Hawaii. He said the weekend has been close to 18 months in the making and credited Gary Pacarro, founding director of the Pacific University Hawaii Office, for helping coordinate the details on the local end.
While the game gives the Hawaii contingent a chance to play at home, Buckley said the trip will also be an educational for the mainland players. Kodama said one of his teammates had never been on an airplane prior to the flight to Hawaii.
“I think that the aloha spirit is talked about and we have such an incredible luau in the spring on campus and a very large Hawaii club,” Buckley said. “I think they’re introduced to it, but to be able to set foot on the island and see first hand the state and to play at Kamehameha, which is dedicated to the education of native Hawaiian students, and taking all of that in is a great life experience for all of these guys besides just playing football.”
Hawaii players on Pacific’s two-deep
RB Kamana Pimental (Saint Louis)
WR Paki Iaea (Kamehameha-Hawaii)
WR Camren Henry (Kauai)
WR Chad Aragon (Moanalua)
WR Tyler Nakama (Saint Louis)
LG Kit Taura (Moanalua)
C Michael Fanning (Saint Louis)
RG Kennon Quiocho (Kamehameha-Hawaii)
WLB Trey Kodama (Kamehameha)
SLB Ina Teofilo (Kamehameha)
S Fresno Masaniai (Kapaa)
CB/KR Max Look (‘Iolani)
CB Kaiea Iwasaki (Kauai)