Here’s one clue to Kealoha Pilares’ whereabouts when he is not involved in football-related activities: It’s all academic.
Pilares, Hawaii’s starting right slotback, yesterday was named to ESPN’s All-Academic first team.
He is the eighth Warrior football player to earn the honor, and only the third to be named to the first team, following safety Chris Shinnick (1997) and running back Travis Sims (1992).
"It’s definitely an honor," said Pilares, who is expected to earn a degree in kinesiology in May. "I work hard in the classroom. That’s important to me."
To qualify, a player must be either a starter or have a significant reserve role; have a minimum cumulative grade-point average of 3.3, and have reached sophomore athletic eligibility.
Pilares’ GPA is 3.65.
He is sixth nationally in receiving with 109.9 yards per game.
"He is an academic athlete," head coach Greg McMackin said. "What could be more important than first-team academic all-American? That takes it to another level."
McMackin said a player’s primary responsibility is to earn credits toward a degree. He said scholarships help compensate a player "to go to school. They play football for fun."
"Kealoha is a Stanford kid, a Cal kid, a Harvard kid," associate head coach Rich Miano said. "He’s a perfect role model for the youth of Hawaii. He is so adamant about his studies. He is so adamant about being the best football player. You don’t go from a kid who’s 160 pounds to a guy who’s 207 pounds and has a power clean of 356. He beats out linemen in power cleans. He puts in the time in the weight room, and he puts in the time in the classroom."
Pilares’ childhood dream was to be a pilot. He was accepted to the Air Force Academy, but decided to leave after a few weeks at the Prep Academy. He then enrolled at UH as a part-time student in the 2006 fall semester before joining the Warriors in January 2007.
Pilares was taking pre-med classes, but with the time demands of football, he switched majors. He said he aspires to be a physical therapist.
"I wouldn’t say I’m smart, but I put in the time and work," Pilares said. "I try to stay focused and get things done. That’s why we’re in school. This is our time. All we have to do is go to school. Why not take advantage of it?"
Pilares said he is the first person in his family to attend a four-year college.
"I’m trying to be successful in life," Pilares said, musing, "I have some expensive tastes. I want to put in the time now. I take it one day at a time. I try to do the best I can."
Miano said: "He wasn’t the biggest kid. He probably wasn’t the fastest kid. But he became big and fast. And he’s smart. Look at his parents. He comes from good stock. He has two great parents as role models. They really emphasized education."