After getting a taste of Power Five football on the mainland, Kamehameha graduate and former University of Washington defensive lineman Kuao Peihopa decided he was ready to come home.

Peihopa entered the transfer portal following the conclusion of the 2022 regular season and announced his intention to sign with the University of Hawaii on Monday.

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The defensive tackle will be able to officially sign his Letter of Intent on Dec. 21 as part of National Signing Day and will have three years of eligibility for the Rainbow Warriors.

Peihopa, who signed with Washington as a Kamehameha senior in 2020, chose the Huskies after receiving a total of 13 FBS scholarship offers. At Hawaii, he’ll play for the team he grew up cheering for.

“It’s surreal for me to be able to play here,” Peihopa told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello. “I have all these autographed helmets and stuff, Kealoha Pilares back when they were playing and I was the biggest fan. Me and my family we were just kids down there trying to get them to just touch our hand and that’s it. I think it’s awesome for me to have this opportunity for sure.

“It’s a responsibility and I’m aware of that fully. I knew being that kid, what it was and what it meant to me. It’s on my shoulders now to carry the torch of how the OGs did it and I gotta make sure I do it my way though. It’s a great responsibility to have.

“It just means a lot more to come home and play for the people I love in front of the people I love and defend our land, you know? That’s how I feel.”

Peihopa played sparingly in his two seasons in Washington with four total tackles over two seasons. Although he saw little time on the field, he feels as though he grew off of it and is ready to contribute for his hometown team.

“I grew up a lot through my experiences while in Washington and was reminded of how special it is to find your why — why you are doing what you do. I feel like my why is here in Hawaii and that’s what I was reminded of. I had some growing up to do and I did. I’m excited to be back home.

“It solidified what I though the whole time that, yeah, I still want to chase my dream and play ball and I still can do it at a very high level. I was down to to working out at 24 Hour Fitness and jogging around suburban neighborhoods. Exiting the space of elite athletes, it made me grateful for all of the opportunities that I was given because I learned a lot and I do feel like the University of Hawaii is getting the best version of me. A mature version of me and a much stronger version of me.”