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Maiava, Nakamura giving back
February 22, 2012 - Robert Collias
It is always heartwarming to see guys who have made it big, don't forget where they came from, and want to see more of those behind them excel, come back and help make that happen.
That is exactly what Kaluka Maiava is all about. On Saturday, Maiava was not only able to help out his lifelong friend, Cody Nakamura, but also some Maui kids along the way.
This is not the first time Maiava has come back to the island to spread his knowledge — far from it, in fact — and I'm certain it won't be the last.
The first — and still only — Mauian ever to be drafted into the NFL finished the season as a starter at outside linebacker. That is just the latest rung on the ladder that Maiava has climbed from Wailuku El, to Kamehameha Kapalama, to Baldwin, to USC, to Rose Bowl defensive player of the game to NFL special teamer to starter.
Next stop, Pro Bowl?
Maiava would rather be in the playoffs than the Pro Bowl and he feels like the Browns have a chance to get there soon.
In part of my interview that didn't make the story linked above, Maiava said he is looking forward to "coming together as a team, we were a young team last year. We had some really close games, but close enough doesn't cut it. . . . Coming in, get the team together, get on the same page, and know what we want. And that is win games and championships."
He added that the talent is already in place in Cleveland.
"Definitely, the guys we have got now, just a few plays . . . If you watched the season, you know what I am talking about," Maiava said. "We were just one play away from winning the games. It is just little things like that, man. The talent is there, the hunger is there. My three years (in Cleveland), I have been around some really good vets. For people to get beatings every week and still come back and fight, I mean, that's the kind of guys I want on my team and to work with. I am just real fortunate to have those guys and learn from them."
He added playing for the die-hard fans in Cleveland is a bonus.
"I love it, man," he said. "If you are in sports, you are always in front of a crowd. It fuels you to feed the fans, especially at the pro level. That is what you live for. That is how you make your money, that is how we get paid. The fans are who we play for, we play for our team, teammates — we are just trying to put it together and get some W's."
He is living on Oahu with older brother Ilima Maiava, an MMA fighter, and younger brother Kai Maiava, who just finished his career as a center at UCLA, as noted in the story, and doing all sorts of training.
"We are all training together, MMA, lifting, football, running, cross-fit," he said.
Being in the 50th state is a welcome change from the rehabilitation of his knee injury that cost him 14 games in 2010.
"I enjoy it because it is the first time I have been home in a long time," he said. "Last offseason, I had to take care of my knee, so I was on the Mainland for a little bit. This is the longest I have been home, so I love being home, going to the beach whenever I want and this is actually the first time me and my brothers have been together since we were kids. It's a little different, I am enjoying it."
Maiava admitted that there were some doubts going into the 2011 season after the knee injury, the first major health setback of his life. He erased those thoughts and said the knee is "100 percent."
"You just never know, I mean the night before (surgery) I am, like, 'I'm not hurt,' " he said. "They told me my knee was torn and I was, like, 'No.' I was still in denial, but that's life and you have got to keep going. . . . I got real lucky and had a good year, a decent year. Now, I'm looking for a better year."
He wants to show the kids the possibilities.
"Like I said, we never had this when I was young," he said. "I didn't learn how to run a 40(-yard dash) until I was training for my pro day. I was running just how I learned at recess."
Here is a lot more on the camps from my pal, Rodney Yap, and here is a lot more on Nakamura and what exactly goes into the camps.
We will keep up with Nakamura's journey to his March combine, as well as Kai Maiava's and UH graduate and brother-in-law Kaniela Tuipulotu's road toward the NFL draft right here.
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