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Fukushima’s Hard Work Leads to DIII Opportunity

March 8, 2016, 3:21 PM HST
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Seth Fukushima (center) signed his Letter of Intent on Monday to play football at Whitworth College, flanked by assistant coaches Chris Todd (left) and Jordan Loeffler (right). Photo by Josh Pacheco.

Seth Fukushima (center) signed his Letter of Intent on Monday to play football at Whitworth College, flanked by assistant coaches Chris Todd (left) and Jordan Loeffler (right). Photo by Josh Pacheco.

Everyone can share a laugh about how far Seth Fukushima has come in his four years on the football team at Hilo High School, especially reminiscing about how he had “two left feet” when he was starting out.

It is a reminder about how much Fukushima has improved from his freshman year to now, and what has led to an opportunity to play college football. The senior offensive lineman signed his letter of intent on Monday to enroll at Whitworth College in Spokane, Wash.

“It just feels amazing,” Fukushima said. “It’s such a blessed opportunity, because I know not a lot of people get to play at the next level.”

Fukushima was a mainstay on Hilo’s offensive line. Injuries forced a lot of changes throughout the season, but Fukushima remained active, a familiar sight for the league champions. He was named to the All-Big Island Interscholastic Federation First Team in each of his last two seasons.

Friends and family, along with several coaches, were a part of the signing ceremony at the Hilo High School Gymnasium. Assistant coach Jordan Loeffler, a former Hilo football standout, described how he brought the training he learned at the University of Hawai’i to the Vikings’ program, and was impressed by how Fukushima quickly picked up on it, ahead of much of his teammates.

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“Everything wasn’t smooth sailing. I think he had a difficult time making the adjustment,” said assistant coach Chris Todd, who will be the head coach of Hilo’s junior varsity program this coming season. “We asked a lot of him, a lot more than we ask of most of our players. Over time, he was able to embrace that and it was really a pleasure seeing him grow.”

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Fukushima isn’t necessarily a physically imposing figure, standing at 5-foot-10 and 220 pounds. It puts extra emphasis on technique, footwork, and quick thinking to stay in there, especially when facing guys standing taller and stronger on the other side of the line. It also meant putting in as much extra work as he could to achieve success.

“I wasn’t like some people that were athletically gifted coming into high school, so everything I did was what they said I had to do,” Fukushima explained. “I had to earn it. I had to go to the weight room every morning, go and work out outside on my own time on weekends and go to the field and run sprints and footwork. It was a lot of work.”

His dedication didn’t go unnoticed.

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“I think he is the epitome of what we are trying to strive for over here at Hilo High School,” said head coach Kaeo Drummundo. “I think the next step in making it as a program is trying to grow out more of these kids focusing on their academics and striving to want to move forward and extend their careers to college.”

Several schools were on Fukushima’s radar, including Division I Purdue University and Division III Puget Sound. Ultimately, he chose the school that felt like the best fit for him in Whitworth. It allows him to keep pursuing music, continuing his trumpet playing from high school. He also will receive a partial academic scholarship.

Whitworth is also a well known football program at the Division III level. The Pirates were 9-2 last season and was ranked in the Top 25 in several polls, including the AFCA Division II Coaches Poll and the D3football.com poll. The Pirates reached the NCAA Division III tournament last season, where they lost to Linfield in the opening round.

There is a Hawai’i contingent already playing at Whitworth. Konawaena graduate Chase Takaki caught 10 passes last year in his sophomore campaign. Pearl City High School graduates P-Jay Solomon and Garette Kanamu just completed their freshman seasons, while Seabury Hall graduate Rip Pahukoa wrapped up his rookie season there at the collegiate level.

Fukushima said that the Whitworth coaching staff projects him to be a left tackle and possibly a long snapper for their program.

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