Maui defensive end Vainikolo joins Kauhaahaa at Utah State


POSTED: Thursday, January 22, 2009

From Maui to Santa Maria to El Camino to Logan, Utah. The journey of Kamaloni Vainikolo has been a long one, but from Point A to Point B to Point C, he has employed perseverance as one of his lead virtues.

The 6-foot-3, 275-pound defensive end gave Utah State an oral commitment recently and will join an Aggies team that has a brand-new staff. One of the additions is former Baldwin head coach and Weber State assistant Chad Kauhaahaa, who already garnered a commitment from Hawaii Prep's Mika Nickel over the weekend.

“;I decided before I went on my trip. Coach Chad used to live a couple houses down on the same street,”; said Vainikolo, who has one more semester to finish at El Camino College (Calif.). “;Plus, Logan is a small college town, no outside distractions. It's a cool campus.”;

Vainikolo played on a Maui squad that has struggled in recent years, and Utah State fired head coach Brent Guy following last season. Getting to a D-I college program, however, is a feat in itself. One of his biggest fans is Gilbert Silva, Maui's girls basketball coach.

“;I told him from the very beginning, 'You know, Kamalani, no matter what happens, you gotta continue your education. You work hard with the school work and in the weight room, you're gonna get there.' He had the size,”; said Silva, who coached under Curtis Lee until Lee retired in 2004, Vainikolo's sophomore season.

“;I knew he could do it. He'd come home, work out in the Maui High weight room,”; Silva said. “;Last year, he came back to my house, whoa, how huge he got.”;

Vainikolo played at 220 pounds as a Maui senior, 55 pounds lighter than his current weight.

“;Now he bench-presses 375, dead-lifting over 400,”; Silva said.

Perhaps the most impressive number: a 3.1 grade-point average last semester.

“;Family will always be here. Home is always home. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices in life. It'll work out in the long run if you stick to it,”; Vainikolo said.

“;I come home two times a year. It's hard, but I know it's going to benefit me in the long run. I see a lot of local kids go out there and get lost. Part of that is because they get homesick. I think about my family and coming from Tonga, and how far we've come, and that makes me stronger.”;