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Friday, December 14, 2007

Maiava holding his own

Kai Maiava (Baldwin '07) has no problems being "the other Hawaii guy" at Colorado.

Much of the attention surrounding the Buffaloes this season has gone to Butkus Award finalist Jordon Dizon (Waimea '04), who was recently named to the Associated Press All-America team.

Kealakai "Kai" Maiava

Height: 6 feet

Weight: 290 pounds

Position: Offensive lineman

Year: Freshman

High school: Baldwin ('07)

Honors: Scout.com freshman All-America team, Sporting News Big 12 all-freshman team, Lee Willard Award (outstanding freshman)

Other notables: Will join Brian Daniels as only true freshman in school history to start nine games if he gets the expected nod in the Independence Bowl against Alabama.

But Maiava, who won the starting left guard job five games into his career, has earned his share of awards as well, making the Sporting News Big 12 all-freshman team and Scout.com freshman All-America team.

Not bad for a kid who only had scholarship offers out of high school from Idaho, New Mexico State, Weber State and Colorado.

"I was overlooked by a lot of colleges that believed I was too short and average size," the 6-foot, 290-pound Maiava said. "I just try to remember all those guys who doubted me and use it as motivation."

That list of schools includes Hawaii, which did not offer scholarships to Kai or brother Kaluka, who plays linebacker at Southern California.

"It is upsetting that our hometown college can't even offer us local boys," Maiava said.

The Buffaloes were the last school to offer, but when they did, it sent shockwaves through the Maiava family.

His father, Scott Mahoney, was an offensive lineman for the Buffaloes over 30 years ago. He had always left the choice of college up to Kai, but the younger Maiava always knew where his dad wanted him to play.

"My dad was jumping off the wall when they offered me," Maiava said. "I wouldn't have wanted to play there as much if it wasn't for my dad, but I always liked the school. Black and gold are nice colors to rep."

Maiava's early success at Colorado can be traced back to his father, who adequately prepared him for what to expect at the next level.

Maiava left Maui just two days after graduation to get an early start on working out and getting acquainted with the school.

While most other incoming freshman were busy enjoying their last months at home, Maiava was spending time learning schemes and practicing blocking techniques.

He had no intentions of waiting around to play. He wanted to get on the field as quick as possible.

"My dad always told me not to take the easy way out and redshirt like most freshman do," Maiava said.

"Act like you belong here."

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COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO
Baldwin graduate Kai Maiava was the eighth true freshman to start for Colorado on the offensive line.

With the help of Dizon and a few of the other local kids on the team, Maiava was already an integral part of the team when most of the other freshman reported.

As a result, Maiava was first in line when starting right guard Wes Palazzi went down with an injury against Miami (Ohio). He finished the game and recorded 12 pancake blocks, earning him his first career start the next week against then-No. 3 Oklahoma.

"It was just like when I was growing up and watching (the Sooners) on television," Maiava said. "I didn't let it get to me because all I could think about was that I earned my starting spot and I didn't want to lose it."

Not only did he not lose his spot, but Maiava was just the eighth true freshman in school history to start on the offensive line.

He finished second on the team in pancake blocks and will tie the record for most starts by a true freshman when the Buffaloes play in the Independence Bowl against Alabama.

He also became the third offensive guard in 45 years to win the Lee Willard Award, which is given to the top Colorado freshman each year.

"It hasn't been something I thought would happen, but it's something I have always strived for," Maiava said. "If I was going to start my freshman season, I didn't want to stop there. I wanted to be the best."

Maiava was quick to signal out Dizon for paving the way for the rest of the Hawaii contingent that play for the Buffaloes.

Colorado has six players on its roster from Hawaii, including B.J. Beatty (Kahuku '06), R. J. Brown (Punahou '04), Michael Sipili (Damien '06) and Sione Tau (Damien '07).

"Jordon is one of my idols now after seeing what kind of guy he is," Maiava said. "If he's from Hawaii and doing all of these wonderful things, then it makes me believe I can do it, too."

While Dizon's college career will come to an end in two weeks against Alabama, Maiava's is just beginning.

He has a lot to look forward to in his career, but there's one specific game that he has marked down on his calendar, even though it won't be until 2010.

"My senior year (Hawaii) comes up here," Maiava said. "Hopefully we smash them."

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