For former University of Hawaii and current New York Jets offensive lineman Leo Koloamatangi, football can wait for a year.
Even as the 26-year-old approaches his athletic prime, he believes there are important things at the forefront in 2020. That view was made clear when Koloamatangi opted out of the NFL season in July due to COVID-19 concerns.
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“For the first time ever in my professional career, I’ve reached a point where I’m dealing with issues that are bigger than football,” he told KHON2’s Alan Hoshida recently. “It came down to be really honing in and understanding and looking into my wife’s eyes and saying, ‘What do we feel comfortable doing this year?’ Throughout a moment like COVID, a global pandemic, I chose to be there with my wife and my family instead.”
Koloamatangi understands the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic and wants to do all that he can to help. In March, he and his team launched the Hawaii Towards Zero initiative, which focused on give island residents resources towards COVID-19 relief.
Last week, Koloamatangi launched a second local COVID-19 initiative titled ‘Grammi.’ Whereas Hawaii Towards Zero was helpful towards all residents of the state, Grammi has honed in on helping senior citizens, who are widely considered to be the most at risk as it relates to COVID-19.
“It’s time to be bold. It’s time to go out there and try to make an impact, whether small or big,” Koloamatangi said. “For us, we went from starting Hawaii Towards Zero and basically Hawaii Towards Zero was a time in which we were just looking to provide any support that we could. Now we’re specializing in those we feel are the most vulnerable, those who have been impacted the most.
“Grammi’s just an emphasis to the effect that family is everything. Family meaning those who are the most vulnerable, it’s our duty, it’s our civic duty, really, to look back and make sure we care for them. Luckily for us, we’re starting in Hawaii and of all people in America, I think the state of Hawaii would understand that meaning and that understanding more than anyone else.”
The main objective of Grammi is to help provide companionship towards the elderly, especially when many are not allowed visitors at this time.
“If we’re gonna launch something that that we want to impact the kupuna, let’s tackle the big problem here. Let’s tackle companionship,” Koloamatangi said. “Let’s tackle loneliness. Let’s tackle mental health and let’s do it in the most committed way possible. Let’s just launch a service and tell them that we’re here. Let’s take on all the costs and let’s make sure that they understand COVID isn’t gonna be what it’s been for you so far and it changes now.”
As for football, although Koloamatangi won’t play in games this year, the work off the field doesn’t stop. On top of his two coronavirus endeavors, he’s also working out twice a day in preparation for the 2021 NFL season as well as raising his baby daughter, Aurora, who was born last November.
“I have the longest offseason ever, I guess, within my control that I can have at this point. It’s up to me to kind of make the most of that so I’m training twice a day, allotting the proper amount of time throughout my schedule of being a dad and CEO,” he said. “It’s all part of the process. I’m just honing in on what it takes to be the best husband I can, creating the environment behind me here at home and resemble everything in the locker room at this point when it comes to training and strength and conditioning, things like that. That’s like the main focus, so now I need to get back there when it’s my time and it’ll be the right time to do so.”