After no official prep football in Hawaii was played in 2020, Leilehua senior receiver Keawe Andres is primed for a breakout year and one of the names to keep an eye on.

However, he almost never got to this point.

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As a freshman in 2018, Andres broke his femur after landing awkwardly on a jump ball. He recalls the ensuing surgery like it was a movie.

“A lot of people don’t know this but I almost died during my surgery,” Andres told KHON2’s Alan Hoshida. “The doctor told my mom and dad them that I stopped breathing. It was that long ‘beeeep’ — like in those movies.

“It humbled me. It really humbled me. I watched videos of people disabled who couldn’t walk again and I was just thinking in the back of my head, like, ‘What if I was one of those people?’ I was just truly grateful to learn how to walk again. The growth of walking, to running, to actually using my leg, it was really powerful.”

After escaping death, Andres also had to learn how to walk again. Years of hard work and persistence paid off when he was awarded with the receiving MVP award at the Polynesian Bowl showcase at Farrington in July.

“I was really nervous about the 40 (yard dash) and all the drills that we had to do,” Andres said. “I was really nervous about that, but when we hit 1-on-1s, I was locked and loaded, I was ready to go.

“I was shocked. They called my number and I was like, ‘Me?’ Oh, OK. I was nervous, I stood up and my legs were shaking in front of everybody. There was choke people and I was one of the guys standing up. I was really nervous. It was really cool.”

When Andres isn’t on the football field or at school, he pays his grandmother, Karen, a visit every weekend. Andres helps around the house with Karen, who has cancer. In return, Karen will often make Andres’ favorite snack: An acai bowl. The two also share a bond after Karen converted him into an Elvis Presley fan.

“I love my grandma. She really means a lot to me. She’s the same person. Cancer didn’t change her, she’s still the same grandma I know. She still has that big smile. She still has that chill vibe and she’s just the best,” Andres says.

“She’s in love with Elvis. No matter what, she always wants to watch Elvis movies with me. I like watching Elvis movies, too. He’s a cool dude.”

The Mules have a big step up in competition in 2021, which will be the school’s first competing in the OIA’s Open Division. But after all Andres has been through, he knows everything will work out as long as his grandmother is holding him accountable.

“I got a lot on my plate because she told me to do good, so I gotta do good,” said Keawe Andres, whose brother, Kona, was also a standout for the Mules. “Her just being strong and her pushing through cancer, it pushes me to be strong every day no matter what in football and school. She just pushes me a lot through everything.”