Despite Lanakila “Meki” Pei’s breakout senior season as a defensive stalwart at ‘Iolani in 2019, the University of Hawaii was his lone FBS scholarship offer by the time signing day rolled around in February 2020.

Pei resisted the football scholarship and instead chose to join the team at the University of Washington as a walk-on, where his father, Meki Sr., played from 1992 to 1994. Pei’s hope was to play his way into scholarship consideration. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which limited the 2020 and 2021 seasons, Pei’s chances were few.

After not seeing the field in 2020 and playing in 10 games as a backup in 2021, Pei entered the NCAA transfer portal and joined the Rainbow Warriors in the summer.

“Before I even started here, I think I was home for a little bit before I joined and I couldn’t even wait to just get out here and just be part of this ‘braddahhood,'” Pei said after Thursday’s fall practice session. “I was super excited to get back in here and yeah, I’m super blessed to be here.”

In joining the ‘Bows, Pei will get the opportunity to play under defensive coordinator Jacob Yoro, the same coach who offered him a UH scholarship.

The 5-foot-11 Pei was mostly a linebacker at ‘Iolani but always projected to be a safety at the next level due to his frame. In 2022, he’s primed to be an immediate contributor in a UH secondary that lost many pieces from its 2021 team.

“I’m mentally prepared for it. Just having that killer instinct,” Pei says of his mentality heading into the 2022 season. “At the end of the day, I don’t size up to ideal heights and weights and stuff like that but I wasn’t in high school. I was 165 in high school playing middle linebacker so it’s all mental to be honest so I’m just going to use what I can. Use my heart and I hope, I know God will keep me safe.

“It’s just crazy. It’s a crazy feeling. Just to finally be home and playing here at the University of Hawaii with this new coaching staff, fresh start. I’m excited to play football. I’m just glad to have this opportunity to play football and especially at home with all my family and this new braddahhood that I’m a part of.”