Kalani Simpson Sidelines

Kalani Simpson

Veteran senior
still paying his dues

AFTER five years in the Hawaii football program, Shayne Kajioka will have earned an education like few know. And it'll come in handy when he becomes the writer that he wants to be. He'll have an inherent advantage when it comes to telling people's stories.

"I have great respect for him, and I think he's going to be successful at whatever he decides to do," his line coach, Mike Cavanaugh, says, "just because of the perseverance and his work ethic."

But more than that, after five years on Cavanaugh's line, Kajioka the writer will have the gift of empathy.

He's been up, and he's been down. He's been the big kid and today he's skinny. Been almost inside, but not quite, been an insider and then out. He's worked his way from the bottom to the top, and finds himself back again.

In this, his senior season, Kajioka plays out the string from the bench. A proud returning starter who spends his Saturdays standing around.

"It was hard at first," he says of the gut-wrenching demotion of not being able to play. "A lot of things went through my mind."

"It wasn't anything that Shayne did," Cavanaugh said Aug. 31 after Kajioka was taken out after a half against Division I-AA Appalachian State. "He feels like it's something he did."

No, Kajioka had always done everything he could. He lost more than 80 pounds to get into playing shape. He passed a grueling conditioning test when all the other offensive linemen could go no more. He'd knocked on the door for years before he finally cracked that lineup. He'd finally made it.

It wasn't easy for Cavanaugh, who was bursting with pride the day Kajioka earned a starting spot.

"He was the fifth-best guy last year," Cav says, "and now some guys are a little better than him."

That's the way it goes. And so the man who had battled perhaps more than anyone for a chance to play now reports to work every day as a sub.

He wasn't even supposed to play in last week's sub scrimmage. It's an almost starter's frustrating catch-22: too good for the scrimmages, not good enough for the games.

But Kajioka talked June Jones into a few plays on defense, just for fun.

"I gotta take in all this," Kajioka says. "This is my last semester, probably, over here. So I'm just trying to enjoy every day I'm out here."

He'll graduate soon. He wants to be a writer. Until then he's still a football player, still here. He showed everyone once. This last part, he's proving to himself.

"It's not the easiest life," he says of a football career. "But it's a life. I'm going to live it."

He'll see it to the end.

"This really does determine the character of your personality," he says, "or the person you are."

"He hasn't moaned," Cavanaugh says. "He hasn't sulked."

He wasn't going to be weak and give up after all he'd been through.

"Don't get me wrong, it came into my mind a couple times," Kajioka says, "but I just had to bite down and deal with it."

And he does now, every day.

It's tough. But he's a tough guy. As tough now as he's ever been.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at


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