WAIKAPU - In so many ways, Kaluka Maiava was at home on Saturday morning at the Maui Tropical Plantation.
Maiava, the former Baldwin High School and Southern California standout who just finished his fourth season as a linebacker for the Cleveland Browns, bounded back to his youth as he worked out with the Valley Isle's football future at the Hard Naks Speed Camp put on by his lifelong buddy, Cody Nakamura.
"It's really good, man," Maiava said. "I mean, guys think I'm on a different level or whatever. When I come back to this type of stuff and I see all these young kids all energized and stuff, it actually motivates me. I remember when I was young, running around, just doing whatevers, but, yeah man, it actually motivates me. It helps me refocus and recharge the battery."
Cleveland linebacker Kaluka Maiava, shown wrapping up Philadelphia’s Clay Harbor during a game in September, plans to help out at a friend’s speed camp every Saturday while on Maui.
AP file photo
To be able to do it with Nakamura - Nakamura was born eight days before Maiava in 1986, they attended school together from Wailuku Elementary to Baldwin, and Maiava was best man at Nakamura's wedding - makes it more satisfying for Maiava.
The turnout at the clinic - an all-time high 49 youths showed up Saturday - was evidence that things are growing for Nakamura. He and wife, Sasha, welcomed daughter Evalyn seven months ago.
"That's like a brother to me, so it is always good," Maiava said. "I'm always happy to see his business doing good, more and more kids, and hopefully this thing turns into a really big thing in the future."
Maiava will be at the event every Saturday that he is on Maui - Hards Naks also recently added weightlifting to its agenda, Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights at the Old Wailuku Gym. More information is available at hardnaks.com.
Maiava is set to leave in March, near the time he may become a free agent. Cleveland made him the first Mauian ever to be drafted by the NFL, taking him in the fourth round in 2009, and holds his rights until then.
"Right now, I'm just enjoying being back home and training and make sure I'm ready when I do get the call for whatever team I go to," he said.
Maiava has 133 tackles, 4.5 sacks and five forced fumbles in 50 career games. His 53 tackles in 2012 were a career high.
"I felt like I had a decent year this past year, the coaches seemed to like me," he said. "Every year, you just learn, roll with the punches and I feel like I'm getting better, a little more comfortable."
If Maiava returns to Cleveland next season, Rob Chudzinski would be his third head coach in five years. Eric Mangini and Pat Shurmur combined to go 19-45 in Maiava's career.
Maiava smiles when asked about free agency.
"Secret, but we are definitely talking to people," he said. "Obviously, that's the business part, but we are definitely talking to teams and if Cleveland decides to re-sign me, I love Cleveland. We'll just see what happens."
Maiava is working out with his younger brother, Kai Maiava, a two-year starter at center for UCLA who finished his college career in 2011 and then went undrafted.
"We're looking at the Japan Football League, I think that's his next stop, so we are starting to train," Kaluka Maiava said.
Kai Maiava, who like Nakamura helped coach Baldwin last fall, said, "I don't want to get my hopes up too high or anything like that, but so far (Japan is) the only thing going on, so I'm going to check that out."
When the brothers are reunited - their oldest sibling, Ilima Maiava, is an MMA fighter who lives on Oahu - they can't help but get better athletically.
"We grew up always just competing with each other and it's the same when we work out together," Kai Maiava said. "We are always trying to outlift, or outrun, or out-anything each other - that's why he's probably my best partner ever, you know what I mean?"
Being able to get to his goal with boisterous youngsters around is all the better for Kai Maiava.
"These kids are exactly where we were," he said. "We grew up on the same island - I wish we had this stuff growing up. It's real good to give back."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org