The Kaua‘i Connection In Manoa

Kalaheo’s Vaughn Meatoga continues a proud Kaua‘i tradition with the Warriors

It’s been three decades since the heyday of star University of Hawaii offensive lineman and current Kaua’i Mayor Bernard Carvalho. Later in the 1980s, Lihue’s Mike Tresler prowled the defensive back-field for UH and now keeps his football chops fresh by coaching at Kaua’i High School.

They are just two examples of Garden Isle football players who made their mark in Manoa.

This year, Kaua’i fans will have at least two players seeing significant time on the field for the Warriors. And, at times, Vaughn Meatoga and Kamalu Umu will stand next to each other on the defensive line.

And though they both hail from Kaua’i, they couldn’t be more different.

Meatoga, a junior, plays just like his loud hairstyles: He’s bold, unpredictable and comical. On the field, he’s a terror for any offensive lineman – or quarterback, for that matter. The Kalaheo native has grown into one of the leaders of the team. He’s listed at 6-foot-2, 285 pounds, but he plays much bigger than that, especially with his deceptive speed and strength.

“I’m more than ready for this season,” he says. “I can’t wait to hit somebody. This is going to be a breakout year for us.”

Like his major, the Kamehameha Schools graduate is all business on the field, but off of it he gives Andy Bumatai (in his early years) a run for his comedic money.

Meatoga’s partner on the defensive line also has a strong personality, but in a different way. Umu leads by example and took a different path to UH. The Kapa’a native transferred from Charleston Southern, a IAA school in South Carolina, which gave him a full-ride scholarship. But longing for the comforts of home, the Saint Louis School grad wanted to be near his family and play for the Warriors. Umu walked on, but just a few weeks ago he earned a scholarship after another player quit the team.

The paid-for education is a relief for him, his wife and two kids.

“This is truly a blessing for me and my family,” he says. “This will help us financially in a big way.”

The 6-foot-3, 270-pound senior is majoring in sociology, and while on the field for the Warriors this year, he’s hoping to get into the heads of the opposing teams’ quarterbacks.

Other Kaua’i-born players on the team include junior Jett Jasper of Lihue. The Kaua’i High School graduate has been sprinkled into a few games over the past two seasons as a wide-out and special teams player.

Jasper, a speech major, has been a scholar-athlete every year he’s been on the football team and he also has been heavily active in the UH community, whether as president of the school’s Student Athletic Advisory Committee or the student-athlete representative for Ahahui Koa Anuenue, the athletic department’s fundraising organization.

Plus, he’s just a great all-around guy and never ceases to acknowledge your presence, whether you know him or not.

Waimea High School grad Kenny Estes has begun his junior season at UH this year. The all-around athlete is listed as a safety and has played in a few games on special teams in his two seasons (redshirted in ’08) for the Warriors, recording a couple of key tackles. Estes’ major is interdisciplinary studies.

A 2010 Kapa’a High School graduate, Sean Shigematsu also is on the team. The freshman offensive lineman is developing well and eager to fill in whenever needed. Shigematsu plans to major in electrical engineering.

Together they continue a tradition of making the Garden Isle proud.

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