After four years of watching California-born teammates fight to secure tickets for family and friends on road trips to Los Angeles and the Bay Area, University of Washington outside linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha finally understands the struggle.
Kikaha is from Laie, Hawaii, about an hour north of Honolulu, site of the Huskies’ season opener against Hawaii on Saturday at Aloha Stadium (7:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network).
So in addition to preparing for Hawaii’s offensive schemes, the fifth-year senior is also scrambling to field dozens of ticket requests from family for the Huskies’ first trip to Hawaii since 2007.
“I’ve never had to experience this,” Kikaha said, smiling and shaking his head. “All the guys have gone through their hometowns and had family ask for tickets, and I’ve never had a problem. This is extremely tough, because I don’t just have a huge family — I’ve got extra cousins and distant relatives that are going to be there.”
Ticket requests aren’t just coming from Oahu, either. Kikaha said he has family coming in from Maui and Hawaii’s Big Island.
“I’m really trying to get as many as I can,” he said. “I wouldn’t even put a number on it.”
He’s not the only Huskies player making a homecoming this weekend. There’s also fifth-year senior left tackle Micah Hatchie, a native of Haleiwa, located on Oahu’s North Shore. Junior offensive lineman Shane Brostek and third-year sophomore outside linebacker Psalm Wooching will also be playing in their home state, though they both hail from the Big Island, which is notable because not many Division-I athletes come from there.
Wooching grew up dreaming of playing in Aloha Stadium, site of Hawaii’s Division I high school state semifinals and championship game. But his Kealakehe team, representing the Big Island in both the 2010 and 2011 state playoffs, came up one victory short of the semifinals each year.
The chance to play there now, Wooching said, “means everything.” He estimates he’s wrangled about 25 tickets for family members, but that “maybe 50 people I know” will be in attendance.
Hatchie estimates his ticket total to be in the 250 range.
“And that’s just a rough amount,” Hatchie said. “There’s still extra people coming as well. I’m just excited to go down there and play, and see all the purple and gold in the stands from Hawaii.”
The hard part, then, might be focusing on the game itself. Asked if he’s excited to return home to play, Kikaha gave a measured response, the veteran emphasizing the “business” to which UW must attend.
“I don’t want to make it any bigger of a deal,” he said. “Just can’t wait to play ball, you know? I love my family. I see them as much as I can. I think about them, I talk to them as much as I can. Business is business and we’ve got to go take care of it. So it’s special, no doubt. I can’t wait to see them. But there’s nothing more important than this game right now.”
There are UW ties on Hawaii’s roster, too. Starting safety Taz Stevenson, who’s from Oahu, played the first four seasons of his collegiate career at Washington, and starting cornerback Dee Maggitt, a fifth-year senior, went to Lakes High School.
Hawaii running backs coach Wayne Moses played cornerback for the Huskies in the 1970s, and was an assistant at Washington from 1997-2000 — first under coach Jim Lambright, then for two seasons under coach Rick Neuheisel, including the Huskies’ last Rose Bowl championship.
Homecomings aside, the Huskies vow to be ready for the game itself.
“I’m just focused on getting our game plan down,” Hatchie said. “Just going down there, playing the game, having fun, hopefully come out with the win and keep my family and friends excited about it.”