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University of Hawaii Football Player Finds Motivation & Support From Teammates

September 25, 2017

University of Hawaii football player, Kalepo Naotala, was injured earlier this summer in a diving accident and is now an inpatient at Craig Hospital working on his spinal cord injury rehabilitation. Last week, Kalepo received a motivational visit from his team mates before they played in Laramie, Wyoming. This was the first time many of the players had seen him since his injury. “It felt good to be surrounded by them again. They have been my family since I met them in January,” says Kalepo. “It means so much that they support me and they have my back.”

Kalepo was with the team for about eight months, and instantly meshed with the players and coaches. “He is all about our philosophy of living aloha and playing warrior when it’s time to play football. I think that’s why he’s so important to these guys,” says Nick Rolovich, head coach of the University of Hawaii football team. “It doesn’t matter where any of our family is, if they need us, we will be there, and Kalepo will always be a part of our family and this team.”

The teams’ visit lifted his spirits, renewed and rekindled his friendships, and inspired him to push further in his rehabilitation. “For me, it was great to see him smile and interact with his team mates. The look in his eye was priceless,” says Tony Naotala, Kalepo’s father. “I think Coach Rolovich and staff have developed an environment where the team, coaches, and support staff are all family, creating a sense of loyalty and commitment.” Right now, Kalepo and his family are taking it day by day, trying to focus on the present moment. “His situation might have changed, but the plans for his life have not changed,” says Tony. “We are working hard every day on his goal to get back and better.”

Watch the University of Hawaii Football Team Perform Traditional Ha‘a Dance