Hawaii is represented well in NFL playoffs

Saturday, Honolulu native Ka‘imi Fairbairn showcased his ability to perform in a clutch situation.

Fairbairn’s game-winner was an affirmation that Hawaii-born players continue to be key pieces to several National Football League playoff teams.

Fairbairn’s last-second heroics on a 28-yard, game-winning field goal propelled the Houston Texans into the AFC Divisional Wild Card round with a 22-19 win over the Buffalo Bills.

Football is a high-pressure, bottom-line business, and like so many kickers before him, he could have easily choked. Fairbairn, now at the end of his fifth season as the Texans’ kicker, demonstrated the cool and calm demeanor of a seasoned vet.

The Punahou alumni from Honolulu is just one of many islanders who have become valuable contributors to NFL teams.

Former soccer and football standout for the Buff and Blue, he was teammates in high school with another player who made it to the NFL and will represent Hawaii in San Francisco 49ers’ all-pro defensive lineman DeForest Buckner.

Buckner has become one of the marquee defensive players on one of the best defenses in the NFL.

Among his recent accomplishments are a 2018 Pro Bowl selection and a second-team All-Pro selection by the Associated Press in 2019.

He is also one of the biggest pieces on one of the NFL’s most prominent defenses looking to make a Super Bowl run.

The island spirit

There is just a mentality here in the islands towards competition that is unique to this part of the country.

You don’t need to reference off-island to find that.

There are several players in the present and past in the Kauai Interscholastic Federation who have made their marks in different sports, also.

The competitive edge at a KIF game is unique, and the work ethic demonstrated is second-to-none.

The combination of toughness, prototypical athleticism and a mentality to work is why so many Hawaii-born players have made solid contributions beyond the high school and collegiate levels.

Fairbairn demonstrated this toughness time and time again in a cut-throat industry. Struggling with his kicking accuracy, hitting only in the mid-80s in his field goal percentage over the last couple of years, it was rumored he was going to be replaced. Obviously, those were only rumors, and Fairbairn made it count when he had to. He’s overcome bigger obstacles in his career and life to remain with the Texans.

Wikipedia references an article by Hawaii Prep World, where he was quoted as saying he survived a near-drowning as a water polo participant. “I almost drowned,” he told Prep World in a 2011 interview. “I am not that good of a swimmer.” This event is what stirred him back to football, and his kick Saturday validated it was a good decision.

Another Hawaii name that could emerge as a critical piece to his team sits on the bench.

Let’s not count out Honolulu native Marcus Mariota.

Mariota, who lost his job because of poor performance to Ryan Tannehill during the midseason of the 2019 campaign of the Tennessee Titans, could still make an impact in the playoffs if something unforeseen were to happen to Tannehill.

With his recent struggles, it’s easy to forget Mariota is one of the most decorated football players in the history of Hawaii football.

He won a Heisman during his tenure at the University of Oregon to prove it.

Make no mistake, he is rested and would be more than an adequate fill-in for Tannehill if the unexpected were to happen and Tannehill were to get injured.

There is certainly something special about Hawaii athletes, and in this latest showcase of the NFL’s best players and teams, they’ve already proven it.

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Jason Blasco, sports reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or jblasco@thegardenisland.com.

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