When it comes to finding strong leaders, we often to turn to people in uniform.
From the first day Nick Rolovich took over as head coach for the University of Hawaii, he knew exactly what type of players he wanted — dedicated young men who understood the history and the culture of these islands and players who get what it means to represent the entire state by wearing Hawaii across their chest.
Kelii Padello, also known as KK, lives up to that standard and then some.
“I think definitely he fits in that mold,” Rolovich said. “He’s a got a leadership role on this team. If he talks people listen because they know how much he cares and they know how much he’s given to this place.”
Although Padello has seen only limited playing time as a Rainbow Warrior, the former Mililani High School star has already given more than most players on the Hawaii roster.
In addition to wearing a Rainbow Warrior uniform, Padello also wears a uniform as a member of the Hawaii Army National Guard.
He was recently deployed to the Big Island to assist with the eruption of Kilauea volcano.
“It means everything,” Padello said. “Growing up here and seeing how beautiful this island is and seeing the disaster that happened it means a lot to get back to the people and get back to the land.”
Although he now lives on Oahu, Padello grew up on the Big Island.
And even though he saw photos of Kilauea’s devastation before setting aside his cleats and putting his boots on the ground, he says nothing compares to seeing it in person.
“It’s a totally different world. Just seeing the effects that the lava has had Leilani for example. It’s mind blowing. to see the total difference that this lava has done to these people,” he said.
“I’m super thankful to him for his example because the Big Island that’s my home so for him to go out there and serve and set that example for just this team but for our country our state to have a guy like that is just such an honor,” UH football teammate John Ursua said.
Regardless of the role Padello winds up playing with the Warrior football team, he has proven himself as a true warrior both on and off the playing field.
He also knows what he represents wearing his National Guard uniform is much bigger than any game.
“Definitely, it is a life changer for people losing their houses life their land to natural disaster or just here to help,” he said. “It means everything. This is why I signed up and this is why I wear the uniform this is why I volunteered to help people that can’t help themselves.”