• Dave Southorn @ TheAthletic.com

Before college football, Boise State commit Kaonohi Kaniho tackles fatherhood


The day Jarrett Kaniho found out he was going to be a grandfather was the very definition of bittersweet. Yes, he was excited, but he also thought it wouldn’t be a phone call he would take for quite a while. Then last summer, his wife Misty told him what their middle child Kaonohi Kaniho had told her. Ahead of his junior year at Kahuku High on Oahu’s North Shore, Kaonohi found out his girlfriend, Raita Laufiso, was pregnant with their child. “The first reaction was a little bit of disappointment, and you feel nervous, like, ‘Where do we go from here?’” Kaniho said. “Then I thought about it — I’ve taken calls where I was told a friend had died. It could have been a lot worse. “But now, I look back and the whole thing has been a real blessing … no matter what, we will always stick together.” The news wasn’t just a shock to the grandparents-to-be, of course; it also was to the first-time parents. Kaonohi was an all-state defensive back as a sophomore, drawing a lot of college interest. Some schools’ contact would fall off after his junior year ended early when he suffered a torn PCL in the third game of the season. But there was no time to dwell on the injury or what it might mean for his recruitment. On Jan. 4 of this year, Laufiso gave birth to a daughter, Teavana. Laufiso had already graduated from Kahuku, but for Kaniho, school started back up four days later. “It was really difficult at first, but she has a great family, I have a great family, so we were able to work it out, listen to all their advice,” Kaonohi said. Trying to balance sports, school and a baby can be too much for such a young person to handle, or it can make them rise to the challenge. In Kaniho’s case, it was the latter: His GPA the quarter before Teavana was born was 3.4, and it improved to 3.8 in the one immediately following her birth. “It brought more perspective to his life, it’s not just about himself anymore … He was already a good, grounded kid, but you can really tell now,” Kahuku coach Sterling Carvalho said. “It’s a tough way to have it happen, but his maturity is really impressive. Every minute is accounted for.” During the summer, Kaniho would often head to the beach for a 5 a.m. workout, then come to Laufiso’s parents’ house or to the Kaniho house, where he would get in some quality time with his daughter. If it takes a village to raise a child, Kahuku does its part. The pair will spend half the week at one house and half at the other, with plenty of family around to help as needed. Kaniho, who is thankful that he has a reduced courseload this semester, will be done with class by lunch and can see Teavana for a few hours before treatment and practice. Then he gets to see her again in the evening. “It isn’t the ideal situation, but he’s handled it really well, he’s attacking it head-on,” said Kaniho’s older brother Kekaula, Boise State’s junior nickelback who also starred at Kahuku. “He knows he has to keep doing what got him in a position to play in college, he wants what is best for her, so him getting an education and to keep playing, he’s on that path.” On Aug. 7, Kaonohi became the fifth commitment of Boise State’s 2020 signing class. For one season, he will be reunited with his brother in the Broncos’ secondary. “After I got hurt, they still stayed on me, still wanted me, and I know from my brother’s experience, I could play right away like he did,” Kaonohi said. “Kekaula and I got to play a little bit together his senior year of high school. We never thought we would again, so I’m excited to be out there with him again.” Carvalho said the younger Kaniho is the most intelligent player on his team and has named him a captain for 2019. “He knows all the angles, he baits quarterbacks and just waits for the perfect time,” Carvalho said. “He is a little more smooth than his brother, who had those crazy fast-twitch muscles. It looks effortless how he moves.” Kaonohi, who is listed at 6 feet and 180 pounds, is being recruited as a cornerback but said he will move wherever the staff may find it best – even potentially to the spot currently manned by his brother. “We were happy to know he would be able to play in college, but them being in the same place makes it even more exciting,” his father said. “He would be there at Kekaula’s workouts, even if he was too young, he’d still be throwing the ball around or trying to do what the older guys were doing.” When he comes to Boise, Kaonohi may not have Laufiso and Teavana in tow. They are hoping to find a way to move them, but if not, both parents know there will be plenty of help available. “I know whatever happens, we will have a great support group,” he said. (Top photo, from the garage of the Kaniho home, courtesy of the Kaniho family)

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