Perhaps no player on the University of Hawaii football roster embraces the fight for extra yards more than slot back Tristin Kamaka, and for good reason. He comes from a fighting family.
The senior who was awarded a scholarship for the 2018 season on Wednesday night is the son of former mixed martial artist Kai Kamaka Jr. and the brother of rising bantamweight Kai "The Fighting Hawaiian" Kamaka III.
No stranger to combat sport, Tristin was a state semi-finalist as a wrestler at Leilehua and won six amateur kickboxing titles all while dazzling on the football field at receiver and kick-returner.
“It kind of shapes my mindset more than anything. I don’t go out looking for that type of reaction so it mainly changes my mindset and we’re never going to give up no matter what situation or how bad things may get. We just got to keep fighting” Tristin told KHON2 Sports Director Rob DeMello.
Following high school, Kamaka attended Midland University in Nebraska where he was twice named an all-conference honorable mention at wide receiver, tallying 86 catches for 1,033 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Last season Kamaka red-shirted, earning the Jimmy Asato Offensive Scout Team award.
In his one season of playing eligibility Kamaka intends to make the most of his one and done opportunity to live out a life-long dream of suiting up for the home team.
On Wednesday night during a team meeting, Kamaka was awarded a scholarship for his senior season, serving as proof that hard work pays off.
“I was just truly blessed to even get that opportunity and it just makes all the late nights driving from the west side for early mornings all worth it and I really couldn't do it without my support, my family and it all stems from people from my high school who helped me get to this point and I’m just truly blessed to be where I am. I just want to thank everybody that helped me get to this point” said Kamaka.
During training camp Kamaka has consistently run with the second-team offense and served as a spell for the returning John Ursua who suffered a torn ACL last season. Kamaka is also expected to be one of the handful of players that will be used this season as a kick returner.
“To me it felt like a gift back like it’s always been a goal to to play for my home town and my home state and it felt like a gift back for all my hard work paid off and I just want to make them proud. The people that got me here and people the coaches that gave me a chance and I just want to make the state and the coaches and this program proud”
Also earning scholarships on Wednesday was Moanalua graduate Jason Sharsh, Mililani's Kaimana Padello, and running back Elijah Dale.
“It makes me feel good that there are guys that want to be here. We had guys bail on us last year, didn’t want to be part of the solution and that left open some scholarships and (Tristin) he’s doing a great job for us. He came back home, he took a chance on himself and has come out here and done everything right” said head coach Nick Rolovich.
The Rainbow Warriors will complete training camp this weekend ahead of the team's season opener at Colorado State on August 25.
“I’m excited. I know the boys are excited. We’re just working hard every day in the sun and we just can’t wait to get down. We’ve been going a lot against each other. We just can’t wait to see a different person across from us and just go man for man” said Kamaka. “We want to bring back that pride. In order to do that we got to come together as a family and we know we got to get things going and come together first. We’re just trying to make the state proud once again”