WAIKAPU - This is nothing new for Kealakai Maiava.
The recent UCLA graduate and starting center on the football team will be at the Bruins' pro day in Westwood, Calif., on Tuesday. It could be his best chance to make the impression he needs in front of NFL scouts.
Despite playing nearly every snap of the 25 starts he made over his two years on the field for the Bruins and earning honorable-mention Pac-12 recognition in 2011, Maiava was not invited to any all-star games, or the NFL combine.
Kealakai Maiava, shown during a Hard Naks Football Camp on Saturday at the Maui Tropical Plantation, received Pac-12 honorable mention during his senior season at UCLA, and will take part in the school’s pro day on Tuesday.
The Maui News / ROBERT COLLIAS photo
Living with his older brothers - Ilima Maiava, a mixed martial arts fighter, and Kaluka Maiava, a linebacker for the Cleveland Browns - in Ilima's house in Waipahu has been the perfect game plan for the family member affectionately nicknamed "Baby."
"It was just like growing up again," Maiava said during a break from offering instruction at the weekly Hard Naks clinic at the Maui Tropical Plantation on Saturday. "Growing up we were always super-competitive against each other. It was good fun because we haven't been together like that in I don't even know how long. Everybody has been everywhere, so that was real good getting reconnected with my brothers and stuff.
"It was a good atmosphere for me because I am real family-oriented and it reminded me of why I am trying to do this and I had a good time."
Kaluka and Kai Maiava share a close football bond, but being around Ilima for the first time in many years has been significant, too.
"It has been great, man, I always looked up to him being the oldest and all," Kai Maiava said. "And he is just the man, I don't know. He has shown me how to grow up. You can't stay young forever, you have got to mature. He did that growing up real quickly being the oldest. So, I just try to follow him, especially his work ethic. He has always been a hard worker and I just try to follow him."
Maiava has made a career of overcoming obstacles. At 6-foot-1, he was lightly recruited out of Baldwin High School in 2007 before Colorado made a late offer. He started nine games for the Buffaloes, earning freshman All-American honors from rivals.com.
Colorado moved him to fullback in 2008 spring drills, however, and he transferred to UCLA. After sitting out a season due to NCAA?rules on transferring, he started 12 games in 2009, but missed the EagleBank Bowl because he was ineligible.
Maiava entered 2010 on the Rimington Award watch list for the nation's best center before fracturing his left ankle in an August scrimmage, which ended his season. Because of using his redshirt year as a transfer, Maiava lost that season of eligibility.
Healthy again in 2011, be started 13 games, earning UCLA's N.N. Sugarman Memorial Award for showing the best leadership on the offense. He missed a game against San Jose State for violation of a team rule.
Maiava had been on a fast-rising path at UCLA, and knows things could have worked out differently in the months that followed the end of his college career. The numbers he has in mind for Tuesday - in the "low 5s, anything low 5s" for the 40-yard dash and 35 repetitions or more on the 225-pound bench press - would put him firmly in the draft picture, however.
Maiava has dropped from his UCLA playing weight - in 2011 he was listed at 318 pounds - to below 300, the first time that has been the case since his Colorado days.
Kaluka Maiava, the only Mauian ever drafted by an NFL team, going in the fourth round out of Southern California in 2009, has kept the advice to his brother simple.
"He just always says, 'Just stay positive, anything can happen and at pro day, if you do bad at something don't stress over it, just go to the next drill and the next drill,' " Kai Maiava said. "That is what I am going to do and hopefully I can tear it up on Tuesday."
Kai Maiava took the combine snub in stride.
"I am just going to take my pro day and do my best," he said.
"I am ready to go, man. I am excited, I am busting my butt and I am ready to perform."
Maiava sported a striking hairstyle at the clinic, with a mohawk and Polynesian designs added on the sides.
"Tribal, I don't know, I was just having fun," he said.
His beyond-shoulder-length hair was a casualty of recent training drills.
"Doing MMA training I just couldn't handle having to tie my hair up every time, so I finally shaved it after eight years," he said.
The message he had for the youngsters was straightforward.
"Just that anything is possible, because coming out of high school everybody thought I was too small, too this, too that," he said. "I just took that and fueled myself and used that for motivation and I did it. I am definitely using that type of motivation now."
Also driving him is the chance to see Kaluka on the other side of an NFL line.
"That is another motivation for me, I always wanted to play against my brother," he said. "That would be too fun. We play opposite sides of the ball, so that would be a war."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org