Pony Up! KSH Alum Kagawa Transfers to SMU

February 4, 2014, 1:45 PM HST
* Updated February 4, 5:41 PM
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Kamehameha-Hawai`i graduate Shaun Kagawa will get a true start to his college athletics career at Southern Methodist University.

First reported Monday by, Kagawa has chosen to leave Army, where he played at the United States Military Academy Prep School, and has committed to play at SMU, which is led by former University of Hawai`i head coach June Jones.

Kagawa committed last year to Army to play football and have a chance at basketball. Instead of playing with the Black Knights college football program, Kagawa started out with the Army Prep team, which plays against junior college level competition.

“I felt like it wasn’t for me,” said Kagawa in a radio interview Tuesday. “I tried it. Tried the military aspect, went through the schooling. I just found out it wasn’t for me.”

Because Kagawa was getting playing time at Army Prep, he had current video clips that he could distribute to get noticed by other school. In communicating his desire to go elsewhere, he got some help in getting his name out. One person that was instrumental in helping him was Rich Ellerson, the head coach of Army that was recently fired following a 3-9 season.


“I tried to put my prep video out there from the season that we had in New York,” Kagawa said. “I started sending it out through coaches. Coach Ellerson helped me send it out. Coach Bob Wagner told some other coaches, and it caught wind through some other programs such as Tulane, Vanderbilt, the University of Arizona, and San Diego State.”


SMU also noticed the video circulating, and Jones gave Kagawa a call last week after returning home to invite him to Dallas for an official visit. After returning home last Wednesday and receiving the call, he jumped back on a plane the next day and took the visit to the Mustangs’ campus.

“I felt like that was the place for me,” said Kagawa. “It was the right fit, and I committed yesterday.”

Kagawa was initially recruited by Tom Mason, SMU’s defensive coordinator. While the two pored over defensive schemes and ideals, academics also caught the eye of the Kamehameha-Hawai`i alum.


“The thing that really stood out to me was the academics and the prestige of SMU,” Kagawa acknowledged. “They have a top notch business program that is prestigeous within the nation.”

Jones played a part in Kagawa’s decision, too. “I watched Coach June Jones at Hawai`i and the Sugar Bowl with that big team back in the day. It was kind of a dream come true to be actually playing for June Jones.”

Kagawa did not lose a year of eligibility while playing at Army Prep. He has five years to complete four seasons of eligibility at SMU.

Kagawa says he will play strong safety and cornerback for the Mustangs. He will also strictly focus on football, leaving basketball behind.

SMU is tentatively slated to open the 2014 season at Baylor on Sat., Aug. 30. The Mustangs compete in the American Athletic Conference.

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