Q&A: Waianae LB Kana‘i Mauga

Kana'i Mauga led Waianae to three consecutive trips to the semifinals of the state tournament before enrolling early at USC in 2018. Photo by Dennis Oda/Star-Advertiser.

From teammates to coaches to family, there’s love for a young student-athlete named Kana‘i Mauga.

Coaches, including opposing gurus, hold the Waianae senior in very high esteem. Rod York of Mililani says Mauga is someone he’d be proud to call a son. Waianae coach Walter Young has the highest praise.

“He has been a role model of a senior leader physically, mentally and emotionally. He shows up to the workout sessions and gives his all, and motivates and encourages his teammates to do the same. He has a football IQ that is beyond his years and he has the ability to do more than just his job. An incredible playmaker!! 

“Lastly, he’s a high energy player with a relentless motor. His positive energy and his passion for the game is by far his biggest attribute. He’s very coachable and respectful. He’s respected by all of his teammates and that’s why he’s an amazing person, player and leader.

“In comparison to other great players in Waianae history, Kana‘i can be put side-by-side with them all. His passion for the game is like no other. Just like the people from the past, he leaves it all out on the field.”

Mauga doesn’t deliberate on accolades, and though he is likely in the running for All-State defensive player of the year, his only concern is his brothers/teammates as they prepare for a state tournament semifinal showdown with Kahuku. Mauga chatted with Hawaii Prep World for this story that ran in today’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Kana‘i Mauga
Waianae football
Q&A • Favorites

Team: Waianae
> I don’t have a favorite team of anything. It’s unusual. I don’t know. I’m like the only person I know who doesn’t have a favorite team of anything.

Food (at home): Corned beef
> The New Zealand one with the cow on top. Whatever’s available I just eat it.

Food (eating out): Wendy’s triple decker
> It has three beef patties, lettuce, tomato, cheese and I add bacon. I have to add bacon. I eat it almost once a week. If I could eat it every day, I would. It’s the No. 3 meal on the menu and I get the baconator fries. And the chocolate Frosty.

Hobby: Beach/hiking.
> Hiking, real hiking like trying to climb mountains. It’s whenever I have time. during the summer, I’ll go to different spots on the west side with my friends or if nobody’s available I just go by myself.

HPW: What are your favorite hiking spots?

> 1. Pillbox. There’s two paths to it. The easy one zig zags. The straight one is straight to the point. I do the straight-up one. The straight-up one takes a minimum 15 minutes.

> 2. Makua Cave. This is near the ocean, kind of near, but it’s kind of in the mountain. Follow Farrington Highway all the way down, there’s a huge cave on the bottom. It’s not that far, but trying to get there, you don’t know the direction because there’s a lot of trails. If you’re going all the way to the top, it’s really steep. I always go all the way to the top. It depends on how fit you are. For me, it takes 30 minutes maybe.

> 3. Kaena Point. It’s just a straight walk and at the ending there’s a gallery where there’s a lot of native birds. A lot of nice birds. They’re very hidden, so it’s unique to see them out in the open. There’s very big ones and those little Tweety birds flying around in those flocks. There’s also monk seals there lying on the sand. We don’t bother them.

Movie: Action movies.
> The Foreigner. Jackie Chan is amazing man. I thought he was out of his prime but he just showed up in that movie.

TV show: Impractical Jokers.
> It’s on (channel) 119. It’s not as severe as Jackass, but it’s real funny. They have four friends and they all have different challenges. They have, like, one friend ordering food. The other three are hooked up to a microphone behind the scene and they tell him what to say to the clerk. He has to say it or he loses and gets the worst punishment ever. There’s a lot of scenes on YouTube, too.

Music artist: Fiji, J-Boog.
> Fiji, I listen to a little bit of both, his older music and his newer music. He is an island guy with nice and sweet sounds. J-Boog, my favorite song is “Mama Roots” (with The Green). It’s pretty catchy.

Teacher: Mrs. (Dana) Hoppe, Waianae High School.
> She teaches marine science. She’s actually always been there for me. She’s pushed me to be a better student. She’s always encouraging me, always making sure I’m on track, I’m OK, everything’s all right.

GPA: 3.2
> I’m always trying to strive for a 4.0. Sports, even if I didn’t have it, I’d have people encouraging me to strive to be my best.

Class: Math.
> Math right now is pretty hard for me. Pre-Calculus. It takes a lot.

Place to relax: Beach.
> Any beach. Every beach on the West side, we have the best beaches on the West side.

> I go based off what my mom says.

What your mom (Raynette) says that you can’t forget: “Be safe. Make smart choices. I love you.”
> Every time I’m leaving the house, or leaving her going any where, that’s her favorite line.

What your dad (Ivan) says that you can’t forget: “Play hard. Do what you do best. Ball out. I love you.”
> He actually played for UH.

What your coaches say that you can’t forget: “Play for the joy of football.”
> Coach Matt (Murakawa) of Waianae. He’s our linebackers coach. It means to shake off the play before, and always play the next play.

What stands out about the 2017 season for you? Being able to play football.
> Actually, the best part of this year is having more people look up to me and myself having to be on point of what I’m supposed to be. To know where my whereabouts are, how to act in certain situations, to keep a cool head because eyes are always on you.

How does football affect your daily life? It keeps me active and it has many lessons and obstacles to conquer.
> It’s been up to me to do it on my own. I’m trying not to rely on anybody to tell me, ‘You should go work out.’ I have to do it on my own.

What middle and elementary schools did you attend? Waianae Middle School, Maili Elementary.
> I don’t think I would change anything. I actually learned a lot, people saying over here is a ghetto and poor, I just wanted to see for myself, to experience what other people think about it. Honestly, it’s not. People are not poor, they’re rich in personality and they have good mind-set of living here and they love it here. They appreciate everything that’s been given to them.

What youth clubs did you play for? Junior Prep Sports — Westside Warriors.
> I started playing football in fourth grade in Big Boyz with my older brother, Kalalena (Losi). I went back to play in Pop Warner, then I jumped back with my brother in Big Boys, and I played year-round. After seventh grade, I played only Big Boyz.

> The Westside Warriors, they’re not around now. After my cousin’s eighth-grade year, it kind of stopped. My uncle used to run it and he just canceled it after awhile. Westside Warriors was probably the hard-working team, very hard working. They wouldn’t stop for nothing. We would always fight to the finish. We played like a family because we had mostly family, my cousins, on the team. We had a unique bond with each other. Some of them are playing in high school. Junior Tuia, Antoneo Brown (Kapolei).

What do you like to do that would surprise most people? I like to go to the beach and bodyboard.
> The feeling you get from bodyboarding when you’re in the barrel, it’s indescribable. The best beach for bodyboarding depends on the type of swell that’s coming in. If it’s a northwest, it’s the north shore. Southeast, then Waimanalo. Southwest, then it’s this side. I try to go out of the west side, but I haven’t had time. I have yet to experience the north shore. It doesn’t matter what kind of board I have. The best board out there is the Hub board. If it’s a two-stringer, it’s like $300. It’s expensive, man. The one-stringer is $190 and no-stringer is $120. It lasts pretty long, too.

Bucket list/destinations: My ultimate dream is to sky dive.
> I haven’t talked to my mom about it. Those squirrel suits, I want to do that, too. That’s kind of like sky-diving. I want to do both. I’ve seen a lot of movies and it looks cool. It’s the speed, like trying to get the right wave, seeing how the wave is breaking at the right time.

What is the history of your name?
> My name means conqueror. My mom chose my first name. I was like eighth grade. I asked her what it means, and she told me to look it up, and I looked it up, and dang. As of right now, it matches me, but I haven’t really conquered a lot yet. I’m still striving.

> I kind of searched the dorms (online) and how they look. They just rebuilt it. They’re finishing up the freshman dorms. I haven’t gotten the chance to see it yet. I’ve seen it when I was with Super Linemen Camp, kind of a tour. We went into the weight room, the training room. We kind of saw the nutrition plan, it’s kind of a good thing.

Overcoming an 0-3 start to the season
> Anything can happen. It was rough in the beginning. For everyone to show up these past two games and bouncing back from that loss to Mililani, it’s a big accomplishment for the whole team. This win over Campbell is going to boost their confidence as a team and individuals.

Waianae vs. Kahuku
> We’ll watch film before we have a full practice. We have to do our right assignments, get aligned right, and execution.

Shout outs
> I’d like to give a huge shout out to my family for the love and support. My friends for helping me. And especially to my best friend, Enée Tiolu, for being the biggest help. A huge thanks to the coaches that have ever coached me along my path. And finally, to my wonderful parents (Ivan and Raynette Mauga) for providing me with all the things that I needed in my life. I hope to repay you both with all that you both deserve.


  1. Gary Harris November 7, 2017 7:35 am

    Nice article. BTW, Pop Warner was coach here at Iowa State back in the 1890’s.

    – Gary (Kamehameha ’83)

  2. rrforlifebaby November 7, 2017 10:21 am

    This kid is an absolute beast!


  3. Josiah Hubbell November 7, 2017 1:19 pm

    Awesome read!

  4. Hau'ulaBoy November 7, 2017 7:06 pm

    Way to go kid! Keep up the hard work and I hope that I’ll be cheering for you on Sundays. But will definitely be watching you play at SC. You got this RR4L already rooting for you to succeed. Stay humble and hungry. RR4L._.

  5. ??? November 7, 2017 8:50 pm


  6. Ombre November 8, 2017 7:53 am

    Never meet this kid, but watched him play on Spectrum 16 and has admired him from the start and now reading his story brings tears to my eyes. He is such a humble person and appreciates all that his has. I will be watching for this kid because he brings pride back to the westside and let’s people know that being from the westside is not a bad thing, its what you make of it. Great upbringing.
    A Searider for life.

  7. Choloropicrin November 9, 2017 10:09 am

    Such a stand up kid with good character. IMO he’s the state DPOY.

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