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Aiea alumni ascend at UH


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POSTED: Wednesday, August 26, 2009

It's been close to five years since R.J. Kiesel-Kauhane and Rocky Savaiigaea last wore Aiea green.

Yet the Hawaii seniors remain leaders by example for the current Na Alii.

“;It's always good to have our players see players like that,”; Aiea coach Wendell Say said of the duo, who are slated to start for the Warriors this season and were elected team captains this week.

“;It makes our players know those goals are attainable, you just need a lot of hard work and those two players were two of our hardest workers when they were here.”;

Savaiigaea and Kiesel-Kauhane have traveled the same path since the seventh grade, making their mutual ascension with the Warriors this season all the more significant for both.

In being voted the Warriors' defensive captains, joining center John Estes, they reprise the roles they held as Aiea seniors in 2004.

“;In high school we were captains together too and we had our front-row lockers. It's kind of reminiscent of the old days,”; Savaiigaea said. “;The biggest thing is to get respect from our peers like that to vote us as captains means a lot.”;

Savaiigaea is part of the defensive tackle rotation with Vaughn Meatoga and Tuika Tufaga. Kiesel-Kauhane has solidified his spot at outside linebacker in the Warriors' 4-3 scheme.

For varying reasons, Savaiigaea and Kiesel-Kauhane have both waited to take leading roles in college. Savaiigaea suffered a triceps injury during fall camp last year and was limited to one game in 2008. Kiesel-Kauhane started four games last year, but was primarily a special teams player and reserve in a linebacker corps that featured Solomon Elimimian and Adam Leonard.

Kiesel-Kauhane and Savaiigaea first met in intermediate school, bonding over football and weightlifting as they progressed through the Aiea complex.

“;I can still remember the first day I met him,”; Kiesel-Kauhane said.

“;Rocky's a big guy with a heart, always trying to make an impact on a lot of people's lives. You can see he's always trying to put a smile on everybody's face. He's the whole package, he's vocal, he shows by example and I think he developed as a player and a person.”;

Savaiigaea said it was Kiesel-Kauhane, now one of the Warriors' strongest players, who invited him to the 4H Club run by Milton Kanemoto and got him into weight training.

“;(Kanemoto) worked with the public housing kids, he always had his home open to us and he always kept the weight room open and taught us life skills,”; Kiesel-Kauhane said.

Though clearly the more extroverted half of the duo, Savaiigaea has seen the more gregarious side of the generally reserved Kiesel-Kauhane.

“;Everybody sees that R.J. puts his talk onto the field, but like anything else, there's a time to be outgoing and he's one of those dudes that's hilarious off the field,”; Savaiigaea said. “;When you get to know him that guy will tell jokes, play music. I can't sing, but this guy will jam on the guitar and sing.”;

Kiesel-Kauhane still has a connection to the Aiea program as his younger brother, Chucky Ka'ahanui, is the starting quarterback for Na Alii.

And as they take on leadership roles in college, Savaiigaea and Kiesel-Kauhane have examples of their own to follow.

“;The person I feel was the best leader I've ever been around was (former UH lineman) Michael Lafaele,”; Savaiigaea said. “;If you see the way he led and the way he carried himself, hands down that's the best leader I've been around. I still talk to him and try to take everything he teaches me.”;

Estes to sit out

Center John Estes is expected to miss the next couple of days of practice with a bruised lower left leg.

The senior captain was hurt during a goal-line period late in yesterday's practice. He was carted from the field with ice on his leg and had X-rays taken, which didn't show a break.

“;He's got a contusion, but he's fine and we're going to hold him out for a couple of days,”; UH head coach Greg McMackin said. “;We're at a point where we just have to get him ready for the game.”;

Estes, a two-time All-Western Athletic Conference performer and an All-America candidate, has started all 41 games since breaking into the offensive line as a redshirt freshman in 2006.

Sophomore Matagisila Lefiti is Estes' backup at center, followed by junior transfer Bronson Tiwanak. UH offensive line coach Gordy Shaw said he also plans to give starting right guard Raphael Ieru a look at center, with Lefiti getting work at guard.

The Warriors open the season Sept. 4 against Central Arkansas at Aloha Stadium.

Student tickets on sale

Student season tickets go on sale today for $77 and $50 at the Stan Sheriff Center and online at HawaiiAthletics.com. Single game tickets for students are $8 and available Monday.