Former UH coach scores as USNA coach

Editor’s note: This week’s edition features our first “Hoku” Star, a special feature highlighting important people and their message to military service members and the community.

While playing for the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors during his college years, local boy Coach Ken Niumatololo returns to Hawaii as the head coach for the U.S. Naval Academy.

Q:Tell us a little about yourself and your ties to Hawaii.

A: “I grew up in Hawaii; our family moved to Hawaii in 1972. My dad was in the Coast Guard and he was stationed in Sand Island so we lived in Red Hill. Then he retired, I believe, in 1975. We moved to Halawa and my dad worked at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. In 1977 we moved to La‘ie, where my dad became the manager of a restaurant at the Polynesian Cultural Center, and then I lived there ever since. I went to a few schools such as Red Hill Elementary, Aiea Elementary, Aliamanu Intermediate, Kahuku, Aiea Intermediate and Iolani, then I graduated from Radford High School. I was all over the place! I went to the University of Hawaii and graduated in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in communications.”

Q: How do you feel about being a coach for the U.S. Naval Academy and coming back to play Hawaii?

A: “I get mixed emotions. I am obviously excited to come back home but playing the University of Hawaii, I mean, you want to win every time you compete but it’s different just from a standpoint of … I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the University of Hawaii. It is where I got my degree, played college football and where I started coaching. You try your best to beat the school that got you started in this profession, so there is mixed emotions. I have great respect for Coach Rolovich and his staff — one of them, too, is my son who just started coaching for Rolovich. Coming back to Aloha Stadium with a lot of great memories, we will try our best to win, as I am sure they (UH) will but it’s still tough.”

Q: What special message do you have for military service members and their families stationed here in Hawaii?

A: “Well first and foremost, I am grateful for their service of all our military service members and families — for those that are obviously serving our country and those who have served. There are many families of veterans who live in Hawaii. But those who are away from the families in the mainland that are in Hawaii stationed there, you are just grateful for their service.”

Q: Aside from beating the Army, what is your greatest joy as a coach for the U.S. Naval Academy?

A: “The greatest joy is seeing them come back after they graduate and to see who are the players that you’ve coached, whether they’re still serving or whether they’ve gotten out and started their civilian careers. But to me, just to see them as fathers and husbands is probably the greatest joy and to see the men that they’ve become.”

Q: As a former quarterback and now coach, what are some parallels in leading a football team and being a leader in a military uniform?

A: There are a lot of life lessons that you learn in football. Like one of them you talked about — leadership — but also teamwork, selflessness, work ethic — all those things that you learn and as you are on a football team — you learn to serve, you learn to lead and I think there are a lot of things, attributes, characteristics and real-life skills that you learn in football that can help you as a leader in life and in the military.

Q: Why should dads and moms consider the Navy for their sons and daughters?

A: I think the Navy, first and foremost, is an opportunity to serve our country, but we really believe that the diversity of the Navy and the Marine Corps — just all the different options it provides has many avenues to be successful and to start a career. If you decide to stay in and make it your 20-year career or if you decide to get out, there are a lot of great skills that you learn while being in the Navy so I just really believe that all the options it provides is definitely a great thing to have.

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Category: News