Sean Shigematsu could always block. Now he’s 305 pounds and a starter for the Warriors.
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth story in a five part series profiling the five members of the University of Hawai‘i football team from Kaua‘i. One profile will run each Saturday leading to Hawai‘i’s season opening game against Colorado, Sept. 3.
AT KAPA‘A HIGH SCHOOL, Sean Shigematsu had the athletic build for success. At 6-foot-4 and around 250 pounds, Shigematsu had the strength and frame to not only letter, but to excel in four different sports. For the Warriors he began as a quarterback, but his mix of size and speed translated better to the offensive line. It was that same size that he used to succeed on the basketball and volleyball courts, and even on the track.
Shigematsu’s size grabbed the attention of University of Hawai‘i head coach Greg McMackin. The coach saw Shigematsu for his athleticism — a rare big man who mixes his size with speed.
There was only one catch: McMackin wasn’t happy with regular size.He wanted to upgrade to the extra-large version of Shigematsu.
“When we recruited Sean, he was a volleyball, football and basketball player. He was 240, 250 pounds and was a great athlete,” McMackin said. “We’ve began a movement to recruit these tall athletic players and turn them into 300 pounders.”
AFTER SHIGEMATSU graduated from Kapa‘a in 2009, he redshirted for Hawai‘i and is now slotted as the starting right tackle for the Rainbow Warriors.
And when Shigematsu lines up for the first time this season against the Colorado Buffalo on Sept. 3, he’ll be a much larger version of his former self.
Shigematsu was always big, but now he’s huge. Heading into camp this season, the Kaua‘i native has added about 60 pounds since his senior year of high school. The scary thing for opponents is that even at 305 pounds, Shigematsu still has the athleticism that appealed to McMackin 60 pounds ago.
“The weight has definitely been a big jump,” Shigematsu said. “I’m not really sure how I’ve gained all that weight, but it feels right. I’ve grown into it. It doesn’t feel like I’m sloppy. I can still move.”
Shigematsu’s ability to adjust so quickly to the weight gain and thrive on the field has put him into the coaching staff’s good graces. It’s a rarity for a redshirt freshman to start on on the offensive line, but if Shigematsu is worried about what to expect, he has a great resource to turn to.
DELROY Shigematsu, Sean’s father, was an offensive lineman for the University of Nevada Las Vegas in the late 1970s. It was his fathers’ playing career that pushed Sean toward playing football, and it’s that experience that Sean can turn to for advice.
“He helps because he knows the feeling,” Sean said. “He’s told me to stay focused and to not take anything for granted.”
With a father that once starred at the position that he now plays, it wouldn’t be too far fetched to think that Sean always had Delroy in his ear growing up. But that’s not the case with the Shigematsus. While Delroy is there for Sean if he wants some advice, Delroy knows that he played in a different era and now leaves the coaching to the coaches.
“My time has come and gone,” Delroy said. “We tried me coaching him when he was young and it just didn’t work out. I was too hard on him. I just tell him now to listen to his coaches.”
Cindy Shigematsu, Sean’s mother, met Delroy during his playing days in Las Vegas. After watching her husband and now son rise to the collegiate level, Cindy said Sean would be the one she would want blocking for her if she ever happened to be facing an oncoming defensive lineman.
“Sean’s fulfilled my goals for him, which was to get a full-ride scholarship,” Cindy said. “He’s made his father incredibly proud and the thing is, he’s better than his father now in my eyes.”
When asked about Cindy’s comment, Delroy agreed with her 100 percent.
“He’s definitely better than I was. He’s passed me up,” he said.
Delroy has no problem with his son being better than he once was; in fact, he is filled with pride because of it. But because of this season’s upcoming schedule, the Shigematsus have a potential problem waiting in September.
On Sept. 19, Sean’s Warriors will take on his father’s alma mater, the UNLV Rebels.
This matchup leaves Delroy with an interesting problem: Who’s he going to root for?
“I told him he better be cheering for us,” Sean said.
Delroy has an idea for a compromise.
“I told Sean I’m going to show up with a two-colored shirt. It’ll be red on the front and green on the back. But I don’t think he’s too happy with that, so I’ll probably have to go all green, which is OK because I’m so proud of my son.”
BY THE TIME the Shigematsus make the trek to Vegas to watch Sean play, Sean hopes to have settled into a groove on the starting line. Sean hasn’t played in a real game since his senior year of high school, and come the first game of the season, he’ll be on the starting line for a Division I football team.
While Sean said he expects to be nervous — he always gets nervous before games, no matter the level — he said he’s pretty sure those jitters will be shaken pretty quickly.
“There’s going to be a lot running through my head,” Sean said. “But if I do get the chance to line up and start, once that first hit pops then the nerves will be gone.”
And once those nerves are gone, Sean should only continue to improve. He’s already grown rapidly over the last two years; the thing the rest of the WAC is worried about, is what he’ll do with his next four.