Former Hawaii football team leaders optimistic about team’s future under Graham


From left to right: Dayton Furuta, Kaimana Padello, Jason-Matthew Sharsh, Azia Se’ei (Courtesy Hawaii Athletics)

Many were caught off guard when news of Hawaii’s hire of Todd Graham broke on Tuesday night.

Kaimana Padello, Jason-Matthew Sharsh, Dayton Furuta and Solomon Matautia are no different. KHON2’s Ren Clayton caught up with the four of them during Hula Bowl festivities in Waikiki with the news still fresh in their minds.

All four seemed to share the same sentiments of simultaneous surprise and hope for the 2020 Rainbow Warriors team and beyond.

“Just kind of shocked that a coach that came from the team last year didn’t get picked. I still hope for the best for UH,” Padello said. “It’s kind of new, still gotta see what this guy’s gonna bring but overall just kind of shocked who they picked but still hoping for the best. With this guy, we’ll see what he brings to the table, I don’t really know anything about him so I can’t judge or say anything off of my mind.”

Sharsh wasn’t very familiar with Graham but upon a quick internet search, he was impressed with his credentials.

“I seen it and I wasn’t sure who it was so I clicked on a link,” Sharsh said. “It seems like he had good experience, where he came from and what he’s done. He seems like a good choice.”

Matautia was a little more familiar, enough to know what the defense-minded Graham brings to the table.

“He’s a good coach. He has a lot of experience,” Matautia said. “From my experience, working with coaches with a lot of experience can be helpful and especially because we have a really young team.

“I’m just excited for the boys, there’s kind of been some confusion not having a coach for kind of a while. It’s good that they have some direction that they know where they’re headed.”

Despite Sharsh’s initial lack of knowledge on Graham, he hopes the team will be accepting of him and the staff he puts together.

“Hopefully with the new head coach, they can continue with what we’ve built so far and also get better from that,” he said. “Just buy in to what the new coach has to say and hopefully good things can follow through.”

“Just stay focused. This is our new head coach and just buy in and everything will follow through.”

Like Sharsh, Padello also hopes the team can buy into Graham and the culture he intends to build at UH.

Although many were hoping for continuity in the coaching search, Matlin ultimately decided to hire a name without any prior Hawaii ties. Change is inevitable, but the 2020 team still returns many contributors from a squad that went 10-5 in 2019.

“A lot of guys knows what it takes to get to make it to the championship and lose. So that fire and that desire is still with them. I don’t think they’re starting from scratch,” Padello said. “I think the biggest thing is just stay open-minded and continue to stick together because at the end of the day, you’re taking the field with the players and your brothers, not the coaches. They are gonna help you, but you gotta be able to trust the guys with you on the field.”

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