CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Brian Kajiyama, center, prepares film for defensive coaches Jerry Glanville, left, and Jeff Reinebold to show their players.
1 of UH’s biggest fans helps out behind the scenes
Brian Kajiyama hasn't let a disability stop him from doing his part to get the Warriors to a bowl
Hawaii lost to Boise State, 41-34, on Sept. 23, and the Warriors -- with several key players injured -- were stranded overnight waiting to fly back to the islands.
It was the lowest point of the season.
They were 1-2, and some doubted if the talented team would live up to its considerable potential.
But Brian Kajiyama was busy at work at the UH football offices, laying groundwork for a nine-game winning streak and a national ranking.
From his wheelchair.
Kajiyama, 30, is confined to the chair and can't communicate like most people because of cerebral palsy. But he has been an inspiration to the Warriors for several seasons because of what he has achieved despite his challenges.
This season, Kajiyama's contributions also became tangible.
He lives in Kailua, four houses away from UH defensive line coach Jeff Reinebold. The two became friends last year when Reinebold joined the Hawaii staff.
"We were just kind of sitting around last summer, and it came to me," Reinebold said. "I asked Brian, 'Would you be interested in working on our staff?' I knew he was smart and great with the computer."
Coach June Jones and defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville approved the idea, and Kajiyama went to work. Although it's a volunteer position, Kajiyama, a huge UH fan, jumped at the chance. His mother drives him into town, sometimes in the middle of the night, so he can edit videotape that the Warriors defensive players study in preparation for their games.
"What Brian has done for us is basically fill the role of what a quality control guy would do. He puts us so far ahead of the game because he's willing to work. Sometimes he's the only guy working in the office," Reinebold said. "He breaks down tape and gets it ready for the kids when they come in. Why are we playing better defense? One more year of Jerry of course, but Brian's helping us prepare. He's an integral part of this program."
Kajiyama did such a good job the week leading up to a 44-9 victory over Eastern Illinois (the game after the Boise State loss), that Jones awarded Kajiyama a game ball.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Brian Kajiyama spends odd hours in the football office, often coming in in the middle of the night.
"I get here sometimes at 3:30 or 4 in the morning, and he beat me here a couple of times," Jones said. "He's made a commitment to us. He's been a great guy for us. We all appreciate everything he's done for us."
Kajiyama, who graduated from UH with honors in 2003, is working on a master's. He is a graduate assistant at UH's Center on Disability Studies.
"It's a challenge trying to do everything," Kajiyama said. "But Jeff told me to not let this opportunity slip away. Each morning I'm up at 5, if not earlier. That's not fun at all. But then I think about who I'm going to be working with and what I'm going to be doing and it's all the motivation I need."
With that, Reinebold began to cry. Then he talked about his friend and, now, colleague.
"It's funny how life gives you gifts. There are days when I feel sorry for myself or tired. Brian comes around and it's hard to feel sorry for yourself. You see how much the guy has accomplished. Just because of a (crappy) break, he has to live his life in that chair," Reinebold said. "I have dreams all the time that he gets out of that chair."
Most interaction between Kajiyama and the coaches is much lighter. Glanville often threatens to "fire" the volunteer.
"When we were 1-2, he rolls in here and says, 'I'm taking over,' " Glanville said.
"So we should win this Sunday, since I've been here everyday this week," Kajiyama said.
Glanville: "Brian asked me, 'Is anyone going to cover the tight end? Or do I have to go out there and do it?'"
Reinebold: "One day he told me we have to move the D-linemen next to Colt (Brennan) in the locker room, so they could at least get close enough to smell a quarterback."
Kajiyama said his dream is to become a graduate assistant with the football team.
Well, Jones is always open to crazy ideas.
"That's obvious," Kajiyama cracked. "He hired Jeff."
Reinebold wiped away a tear and smiled.
"People just see him as a kid out there in a wheelchair," he said. "If they knew his effort and commitment, they'd see something else."