From playing in the Sugar Bowl in front of thousands of cheering fans to speaking to hundreds of cheering D.A.R.E. graduates at the Kaua‘i War Memorial Convention Hall, three of Kaua‘i’s Warrior football players have taken time out of their summer vacation for a little community outreach.
Brothers Keala and Keahi Watson and Vaughn Meatoga spoke to elementary school graduates of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program about keeping off drugs and working hard in life. The trio also visited Kapa‘a Elementary and Middle School earlier this week.
“We know the influence the football program has in the state and we know we’re role models to these kids,” said Keahi Watson. “We try to use all the attention we’re getting to be a good example to them.”
When he does these talks — here and on O‘ahu — he uses himself as an example.
“It’s like, for me, I’m not a starter, so I have to work hard for everything I get. And it pays off,” he said. “I think our message gets through to (the kids). The teacher and coaches come up to us, they tell us, ‘we tell them the same things, but when they hear it from you guys, they actually listen.’”
Their visits were a part of a continuing program set up by the University of Hawai‘i in which the athletes do public appearances for kids.
The Watsons and Meatoga stepped onto the stage at the convention center, gave out prizes and did an impromptu demonstration of what it would be like if they were on drugs and how negatively it could affect their bodies.
Meatoga said he believes that visits like the ones they make are good for the community.
“I was in their position once, and if I had people telling me what we’re telling the kids now, life would have been a lot easier,” he said. “I used to think that the teachers and coaches were all hard on me because they didn’t like me or something. Now, I know that they were hard on me because they cared.”
Keala Watson said he also uses the talks to parallel his life with Hawai‘i’s perfect season. The Warriors were the only unbeaten team by the end of the season. Because of that, the Warriors earned a berth in one of the prestigious Bowl Championship Series’ games, the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.
“I relate our season to how I got to the position I’m at,” he said. “Everything from school and grades to working out… I try to instill in their minds what it takes to be perfect. I tell them we win games in the off-season. You don’t just walk into a perfect season. You can’t just wake up a champion. It takes training and you have to work hard.”
Meatoga said that even though they’re technically on vacation now, he is happy to take time out of his personal schedule to visit schools.
“This is our way of giving back to the community,” he said.
• Lanaly Cabalo, sports editor, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or firstname.lastname@example.org