POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Sep 17, 2010
LAST UPDATED: 2:08 a.m. HST, Sep 17, 2010
SUMMERLIN, NEV. » If not for a broken arm his senior season of high school, Kyle Kamau might be a University of Hawaii football player.
But it seems he was destined instead for a different role -- and to be very good at it. The UH senior is a third-generation football manager who gets rave reviews for his work supporting the Warriors.
His grandfather, George, is a local island sports legend who did everything from laundry to equipment repairs to first aid at Farrington High School for decades and still works with the Governors. He also worked with the Pro Bowl players for many years.
Kyle's father, Keoki, was a longtime athletic trainer with the Washington Redskins and San Diego Chargers. That's why Kyle's childhood memories include having NFL stars as playmates.
"It was unbelievable. Junior Seau, Rodney Harrison ... When we were little they'd push us around in the laundry carts," he said. "They made me feel welcome. Always fun to hang out with, had a good time with them."
In his four years with the Warriors, Kamau has traveled to Las Vegas, Seattle, New Orleans and New York in addition to Western Athletic Conference towns.
But there isn't always time for sightseeing. The work day for Kamau and most of the other 20 students, volunteers and professionals who make up the support staff on the road begins at least an hour before the team's practices, which are usually early in the morning. And it doesn't end until long after practice, with preparations for the next day completed.
"He's a tremendous asset to the team," said Lori Figueroa, who is the UH football team's travel group coordinator. "He never complains, never gives a hint that he might think something is not within his job description."
Head coach Greg McMackin calls Kamau "one of my right-hand guys." Left-hand guy might be more fitting, since one of Kamau's duties at home practices is driving McMackin to and from practice in a golf cart.
"Kyle is like family," the coach said. "His father was at San Jose State when I was there and we became good friends. He does a lot more than a manager; he's sort of like my personal assistant."
Just like the game of football itself, the work to stage daily practices and weekly games is a tremendous team effort ... especially on the road, where things are complicated by travel issues and feeding and housing a group of nearly 100 people.
Much of the support staff is in plain sight during games -- yet they're virtually invisible because focus is on the athletes and coaches.
"People just see the players coming out of the tunnel," Figueroa said. "They don't realize what it takes behind the scenes by a lot of people to make it happen."
Some aren't even being paid, or, like Kamau, being reimbursed with a scholarship.
Shay Yanagi owns a painting business in Hawaii. He travels with the team at his own expense and volunteers in the equipment room.
"That man pays his own way and he busts his butt helping the equipment guys," Figueroa said.
Kamau was a good football player at Grossmont High School in San Diego. He tried out for the UH team last offseason, but eventually realized if he gave up his manager's job he'd lose his scholarship.
"He'd really like to play, but he's so valuable in this role," McMackin said. "He has great organizational skills. He's the kind of person I'd like to hire as a football operations guy."
Like the student-athletes, he must balance schoolwork with his courses, even on the road. Kamau is majoring in sociology with a focus on criminology and has an eye on perhaps becoming an FBI agent.
But for now, he's doing the family business proud.