While being interviewed for a Honolulu Star-Advertiser story that announced his hiring as the new McKinley football coach, Sam Cantiberos used a word that captures his essence.
Cantiberos was referring to what he’d like the McKinley football program to be — so positive and uplifting that “people want to hop on board.”
Well, Cantiberos, 38, can tell you a thing or two about infectiousness. He is four years removed from chasing his biggest dream, a dream that got away.
Making it to the NFL is not possible for everyone on the planet, but it never stopped Cantiberos from trying, all the way up to age 34. The passion he has for football (since being “infected” with a love for the sport at a young age) will now be funneled into the Tigers’ program.
He was a standout running back/slotback for McKinley, graduating in 1994.
“I was being recruited as a D-I college player,” he said. “But I found out I was missing a science credit and was not eligible. I went the JC route and it was unsettling. I jumped around from JC to JC, trying to get to Division I. It took so long that my eligibility ran out. I stayed the course, trying to make the NFL and needed to find an outlet, so I played semipro football in California.”
Cantiberos said he’s been to “tons” of combines. He said his fastest 40 was a 4.19 (with a handheld timer in Las Vegas) and that he benched 225 pounds about 35 times. He became a player/coach in semipro ball and he also landed with teams in Nevada and Oregon. His fastest 40 in high school, he said, was a 4.23 with a handheld timer.
Cantiberos’ playing weight was 220 pounds and, in the four years since seriously training, his weight shot up to 280.
“I’ve lost 40 pounds recently, down to about 240, but I plan to get down to 215 — when practice starts and I’m running around with the kids,” he said.
Cantiberos, who takes over for Joe Cho, will try his hand at building an “elite” program at McKinley.
It won’t be easy. The Tigers went 0-7 a year ago and haven’t been an OIA contender for years.
“I want what every coach wants,” he said. “I would like to create an infectious, positive culture, where it effects the whole school — the basketball, baseball and track teams — and the community.”
Cantiberos plans on installing a multiple-set offense and is a true believer in adapting to what kind of players are on the roster. Eventually, and ideally, he would like to run an up-tempo offense.
“From what I’ve heard, we don’t have the biggest players around, so it’s possible our biggest strengths will be speed and conditioning,” he said.
Got that, McKinley Tigers players? Here you have a new coach with a lot of zeal. So, just in case you missed it, he mentioned “conditioning.”
On defense, Cantiberos will likely have with a 4-3 set that flexes into a 3-4 and a 5-2.
At any rate, schoolwork is high on his list for the players.
“Education is first,” he said. “I learned it the hard way (missing science credit).”