Kahuku grad Keala Santiago makes instant impact with ‘Bows

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University of Hawaii football training camp rolled on Thursday, as the team is now just over three weeks away from kick-off against California in Australia.

On day four of camp, pages of the playbook continued to be turned over as defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa gives players opportunities to showcase their understanding of the scheme.

Among those getting quality reps in practice are true freshman. Thursday’s workout witnessed former Farrington linebacker Jeremiah Pritchard and American Samoa native Viane Moala each disrupt the offense on multiple occasions as quarterbacks Ikaika Woolsey and Aaron Zwahlen continued to take the lion share of reps on the first and second units.

Arguably the most impressive rookie on defense was not that much of a surprise. Kahuku graduate Keala Santiago received rave reviews from both coaches and players throughout the first week of camp, having taken almost every second-team snap at safety.

He’s also a two-time Cover2 all-state selection and reigning Chad Owens Award winner as prep special teams player of the year.

“(We’re) very, very impressed with Keala. I noticed right away that he is very smart. He understands defenses, offenses, and where to fit,” defensive backs coach Abraham Elimimian told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello. “You only need to tell him one thing one time and he’ll probably get it. So, I think a guy like that, it’s just about learning the whole defense as a whole. For the most part, we are very, very pleased with what we are seeing so far.”

Santiago, whose father and two uncles played for the Rainbow Warriors in the 1980s and ’90s, was a team caption for Kahuku in 2015, helping lead the Red Raiders to an undefeated season and state championship.

He is the first cousin of San Diego Chargers linebacker Manti Te‘o, and was named a Cover2 first-team selection at defensive back after having recorded eight interceptions to go with two defensive touchdowns and four special teams touchdowns.

“We want to stress him right now in game-time situations, so when the real game comes, they can actually play well,” said Elimimian. “A guy like Keala, he’s played in big-time situations before as a state champion, so the stage is never too big for him. Some of the other guys, it’s just about playing fast, but playing within the scheme of the defense, and if they continue to do that, they should be fine.”Keala Santiago Bio:

Prep: A 2016 graduate of Kahuku High School on O’ahu…a four-year letterwinner in football…played safety and returner for the Red Raiders…was a key member on one of the most dominant Hawai’i high school defenses in recent memory…led a unit that pitched six shutouts and held opponents to a 4.1 points-per-game average, en route to an undefeated 13-0 record, O’ahu Interscholastic Association (OIA) title and HHSAA State Championship…made 19 tackles and picked off eight passes as a senior, including two for touchdowns…forced a fumble and recovered another…as a senior, was named first-team all-state and state Defensive Player of the Year by USA Today, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, American Family Insurance All-USA Hawai’i, Cover2 and ScoringLive…also named the Cover2 Chad Owens Award Winner for Hawai’i Special Teams Player of the Year, recording three punt returns for touchdowns on the year…was named 2015 OIA Red Defensive Player of the Year in addition to first-team all-OIA Red honors…as a junior, received first-team all-OIA Red honors and was Cover2 all-state second team as a defensive back…rated a three-star recruit by Scout and 247Sports…also earned two letters in track and field…graduated cum laude.

Personal: Born in Honolulu, O’ahu…full given name is Louis Keala Santiago, Jr…intends to major in architecture…father, Louis, and uncles Walter and Lane, played for UH in the 1980s…older sister Zhane is a member of the UH track team and a former member of the soccer squad…cousins include current UH linebacker Rashaan Falemalu, former Rainbow Warrior Paipai Falemalu and former All-American and current San Diego Charger Manti Teo…parents are Keala and Anue Santiago of Hau’ula, O’ahu.

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