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Holani Continuing FB Career at Kansas

December 17, 2015, 5:40 PM HST
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Hilo High School graduate Tanikeni “Isi Holani” will get to extend his college football career by two more years.

Holani announced Wednesday that he will spend his junior and senior seasons at the University of Kansas, a Division I Football Bowl Subdivision school located in the city of Lawrence. It is a member of the Big XII conference.

“I chose to take a visit to Kansas, and when I got there, I just had a feeling in the back of my head that this is where I wanted to be,” said Holani.

Lawrence is the sixth largest city in the state of Kansas, with over 87,000 people living there, according to the 2010 census. There was something about the college town that appealed to Holani, helping him make the decision to go to the midwest.

“I think it was just the people in the community,” Holani said on a radio interview Wednesday. “It reminded me a lot like home, and I thought in my head that I could see myself going there, so it felt like a second home for me.”

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As a defensive lineman at Hilo, Holani stood out to lead one of the top defenses on the island. He was named the Big Island Interscholastic Federation’s Division I Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 after recording 52 tackles and 13 sacks for the Vikings, who were league champions. The league’s coaches also placed him on the All-BIIF First Team in his junior and senior seasons.

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After graduating from Hilo, Holani went to Reedley College in California, where he amassed 34 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks. The following year, he moved to Riverside City College, also in California, where he played in eight games, totaling 26 tackles, one sack, and 4.5 tackles for loss.

While at Riverside, Holani played alongside several other local standouts, including Hilo High teammate Sione Holika, who played running back in his freshman season at the two-year school, Farrington High School graduate Moalatautai Heimuli, Nanakuli High School alum Dezmond Kaaihue, and Baldwin High School grad Abraham Reinhardt, who committed to the University of Hawai’i.

Several other schools competed for the opportunity to land Holani, including Hawai’i, coached by former quarterback Nick Rolovich. Holani visited the campus last week.

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“It was great to be home for a few days. I love being in Hawai’i and they do have an awesome head coach now in Coach Rolovich,” Holani explained. “I just want to thank him for offering me, but even after all of that, something was just telling me that Kansas was where I should be. After praying about it and thinking about it, I just felt that way.

Besides the visits to UH and Kansas, Holani also went on an unofficial visit to the University of Southern California.

Holani has grown since his high school playing days. He’s added on about 30 pounds to get over 300 pounds, and being away has helped him develop into getting accustomed to the mainland routine, the college life, and new schemes and terminology with football.

The biggest goal for Holani will come at the end of his collegiate experience, where he hopes to achieve something that has never been done in his family.

“We didn’t really grow up with much. It really was a struggle my whole life. My mom or dad never went to college. Nobody in my family ever really did,” Holani explained. “So my mom told me to just get through it. It’s only going to be four years and when I get my degree, I can do something with my life, so I took that to heart and that’s what I’m doing now.”

Holani’s debut with Kansas will come on Saturday, Sept. 3, when the Jayhawks host Football Championship Subdivision foe Rhode Island.

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