Hawaii Grown: College Athletics
HAWAII GROWN REPORT
COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN
Kamehameha graduate Donovan Raiola has his eyes on an NFL career after starting four years at center for Wisconsin.
Tomorrow’s UH game brings Wisconsin's Donovan Raiola and James Kamoku home
THE Detroit Lions are as much a part of Thanksgiving as turkey and pumpkin pie, since they are always among the four NFL teams that play on the fourth Thursday of November.
At the Raiola house in Kaimuki, it's an even bigger deal. For the past several years, Tony and Debbie have had the opportunity to watch their son, Lions center Dominic, play center for the Lions.
Today it's a step beyond even that, as their other son, Donovan, is home from college. Donovan, along with his parents and other family and friends, gets to take in the action with loved ones as the Lions play the Atlanta Falcons.
"I'm very excited," he said. "We'll all sit down and watch the game together."
But Donovan won't get to stay long -- he will spend the rest of the day with his other family, the University of Wisconsin football team.
"I'm not sure if I'll be able to stay (at home) for dinner," he said. "We have a team movie to go to, and we'll be focusing on the game."
The Badgers play Hawaii tomorrow, as senior Donovan Raiola returns for a game at Aloha Stadium for the first time since 2000, his senior year at Kamehameha.
"It will be real fun," said Raiola, who expects around 80 supporters at the game tomorrow. "Obviously a lot of family hasn't gotten to see me play. It's another game, but real exciting for me."
Like Dominic, Donovan is a center. He is one of the best at his position in college football and will also probably play in the NFL.
The 6-foot-3, 294-pound Raiola is a two-time Big Ten honorable-mention choice. He is one of four Badgers team captains. He has the respect of his coaches and teammates.
"Donovan has had a tremendous career, a four-year starter," coach Barry Alvarez said. "He has fun with the game and has a great personality. He's had his bumps and bruises, but it's hard to get him off the field."
Junior running back Brian Calhoun has benefited from Raiola's blocking and line calls.
"He's definitely been one of our leaders," Calhoun said. "Donovan knows what it takes to win and he's done tremendous things for us. Hopefully he can have a good game in his hometown."
There's a possibility Raiola will play another college football game here, since he's been invited to the Jan. 21 Hula Bowl.
"I'd love to accept now, but I'm still waiting on the East-West Shrine Game and there's a slight chance for the Senior Bowl," Raiola said.
COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN
James Kamoku, a third-year sophomore safety and special teams player from Kealakehe, transitioned from the Big Island to the Big Ten with the help of Raiola, Lyle Maiava and R.J. Morse.
Three years ago, Raiola and two other Badgers from Hawaii who have since completed their college football careers (R.J. Morse and Lyle Maiava) helped convince linebacker James Kamoku from Kealakehe on the Big Island to join them in Madison.
Kamoku, now a sophomore in football and a junior in school, said he has no regrets.
"They all look after me, especially Lyle," Kamoku said. "He tells me, 'If I made it, you can make it.'
"Other than 8-degree weather, it's great," Kamoku said of living in Wisconsin. "The first winter was rough. I never had to deal with one before. I'd seen snow at Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. I'd played in the snow, but never had to walk through it to go to school."
The 6-2, 210-pound Kamoku plays on the kickoff, kickoff-return and punt-return teams. He is a reserve strong safety.
"He's a valuable part of our team," Alvarez said. "He plays with intensity and loves the game."
Of course, Kamoku hopes for a bigger role eventually.
"I get thrown in on goal-line once in a while. The guys ahead of me are both juniors," he said. "They're both smart guys, and I try to learn as much as I can about playing the position. I played outside linebacker in the spring, so they're trying to see where I fit best. I always set my expectations high, but I have to go with what the coaches believe. When they feel I'm ready, I know I'll be ready."
If there's a similarity between Big Ten and Big Island football, it's the long bus rides. His longest in high school was to a game at Keaau (3 hours each way), while in college it was to Iowa (5 hours).
"The trips are highlights in football, being on buses and planes with the guys," said Kamoku, the first player from his island to get a full football scholarship to a Big Ten school. "It's a different mind-set on the bus in college than high school. In high school you sit and talk story with your friends and play video games. In college, you talk, but it's about your assignments and the opponents. Instead of video games, you've got laptops, scouting with DVDs. If I'm not doing that, I'm catching up with my classwork."
Kamoku is undertaking an ambitious academic mix of history and political science, "with the idea of going to law school." He headed to Wisconsin with the intention of majoring in architecture.
"For what I was pursuing at the time, Madison was the place to go. But I found I enjoy talking and writing papers, so law's perfect for me. I'm interested in international law, so I'm taking Japanese and I want to learn Spanish, too."