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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Catching up with Chad

Kauhaahaa returns to Valley Isle for camp as Utah State defensive line coach

By ROBERT COLLIAS, Staff Writer

PUKALANI - The gray T-shirt with the purple writing - ''Utah State Football'' - said it all for Chad Kauhaahaa.

That is where the 1991 Baldwin High School graduate, standout defensive end for the University of Utah and former Baldwin head coach has always wanted to be - at the top level of college football as a coach.

Kauhaahaa was wearing the garb of his new school, where he is the defensive line coach, at the seventh annual Just Win Football Camp at King Kekaulike Stadium on Thursday. As he barked out instructions to dozens of standout prep players, he was among a stellar list of coaches from universities including Colorado, California, Utah, Utah State, UCLA, UNLV, Hawaii and Arizona.

''I think I am going on my sixth year at this camp,'' Kauhaahaa said. ''We have a very impressive list of coaches this year.''

Texas Tech head coach and offensive guru Mike Leach stopped by the Wailea Marriott to give the keynote speech to the coaches clinic for this camp Wednesday as UCLA's own offensive guru, Norm Chow, Utah State head coach Gary Andersen, UNLV head coach Mike Sanford, Colorado associate head coach Brian Cabral and several others listened intently.

''You know what was great about this is we had this clinic Wednesday night which had an all-star cast of coaches starting with Norm Chow, Mike Leach, Mike Sanford and then our head coach Gary Andersen,'' Kauhaahaa said. ''What is great is that we have a carryover where you have a guy like Norm Chow actually working this camp. That is a rarity, but it is great to see Coach Chow giving back to the kids of Hawaii - that is what Coach Chow is about.''

It is also what Kauhaahaa is about. He fit in with the other Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) coaches at King Kekaulike like he was always meant to be there.

''I love Chad,'' said Andersen, who hired Kauhaahaa from Weber State when Andersen got the Utah State job after spending the last decade as defensive coordinator at Utah, a stint that included an unbeaten Sugar Bowl-championship season in 2009. ''I have watched him develop as a high school coach and really as a player back in his days at Utah. When he said then that he wanted to get into college coaching, I knew it wasn't going to take long.''

After three seasons and a 27-5-2 record at Baldwin from 2002 to 2004, Kauhaahaa jumped into college coaching at Weber State for his former head man at Utah, Ron McBride. He kept his options open by taking a five-year leave from the Hawaii state Department of Education, but that window is now closed as he tries to help turnaround the moribund Aggies program.

''I always knew he was going to be a Division I coach, and I am very fortunate to have him on my staff,'' Andersen said about hiring Kauhaahaa in December after Weber State's season ended in the quarterfinals of the Football Championship Division (formerly Division I-AA) playoffs.

''He is the whole package for us,'' Andersen said. ''He is a great recruiter, and he puts the kids first, which is number one for me.''

Kauhaahaa said that being back on Maui as an FBS coach is a dream come true.

''You know what, it feels great,'' Kauhaahaa said. ''I was blessed to get the opportunity to make the jump. When I left Maui, that was my goal, my five-year plan, and it got into place in the fifth year.

''Now, this is going to be my profession. I knew what I was getting into when I started, and I met my goal. Now I have to set another goal.''

Would that be head coach?

''Have I come up with another goal? Not yet,'' Kahuhaahaa said. ''Let's take it one step at a time.''

The Kauhaahaa family has still not made the move from his home in Farmington, Utah - near the Weber State campus in Ogden - to Logan, Utah, where Utah State is located, because he has been on the run since that fateful day in December when Andersen called. That means a 90-minute daily commute that Kauhaahaa, 36, doesn't always bother making.

''I've got a great opportunity here,'' Kauhaahaa said. ''Gary has been coaching defensive line for a long time, and he has a lot of NFL players. He works with me closely. He is really a defensive guru.

''So far it has been great. He has put a great staff together. Sometimes I sleep in my office. You know, I have been in Utah for a long time, but I have never experienced winter like I have going through what they call 'Sardine Canyon,' which is a treacherous canyon you have to go through to get to Ogden. It was an experience, to say the least.''

One that Kauhaahaa wouldn't give up for anything.

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