Isaac Liva, who was one of the state’s top high school volleyball players the past three seasons, is set to join the University of Hawaii football team next month.
It is a remarkable ascent for Liva, who won several honors in volleyball and basketball but had not played organized football until his senior year at Mililani High School.
When Liva inquired about joining the Mililani football team in July 2015, head coach Rod York recalled thinking: “Who’s this guy? We never even heard of him.”
That probably was because Liva attended Hanalani School as a freshman and Hawaii Baptist Academy as a sophomore and junior, when he led the Eagles to Division II state volleyball titles in 2014 and 2015.
“It was my senior year, and I had nothing to lose,” Liva said of decision to try out as a defensive end.
Liva admittedly had difficulty putting on his pads correctly for his first football practice. The coaches “let you know where you are on the (depth chart),” Liva said. “We had first string, second string and third string. When I first started, I was no string.”
But he advanced to backup defensive end during the 2015 preseason. When two defensive linemen suffered season-ending knee injuries, Liva moved to the top of the depth chart.
Liva, who is 6 feet 5 inches tall and 230 pounds, initially was instructed to “basically, go for the quarterback. Once I got that down, they taught me about the moves and the different gaps and stuff.”
In Mililani’s four-man base front, Liva aligned on the edge. “He’s athletic,” York said. “You can’t out-run him. He might lose containment, but because of his athletic ability, he’ll recover.”
York said Liva was at his best as a run-stopper. In short-yardage situations, Liva moved to defensive tackle, playing the 3-technique across the gap between the offensive guard and tackle. In the OIA title game, Liva recovered a fumble and raced 27 yards for a touchdown.
Liva also is expected to play for the UH men’s volleyball team. This past volleyball season, he was named the OIA West Player of the Year.