Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner and kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn were both beneficiaries of lucrative contracts during the NFL offseason. Buckner signed a four-year, $84 million extension with the Indianapolis Colts upon getting traded by the San Francisco 49ers, while Fairbairn signed a four-year, $17.6 million extension with the Houston Texans.
Buckner and Fairbairn were teammates at Punahou and even graduated in the same class. Buffanblu head coach Kale Ane has been at the helm since 1998 and remembers the two fondly, who finished their Punahou football careers at the end of the 2011 season.
“Extremely proud. Very happy for them. They’ve worked really hard. Both quality kids that work hard for everything they’ve gotten. Nothing’s been given to them,” Ane told KHON2. “One’s already been to the Super Bowl — DeForest has been to the Super Bowl and in the league for a few years. And Ka’imi, he wasn’t even a football player when he first came here. He was a soccer player.
“To reach this level, I got to see all the hard work they put behind the scenes. Ka’imi started out and was missing extra points at UCLA. There’s a lot of adversity they had to overcome. They never complained, they always worked hard. Just great to see.”
Buckner and Fairbairn were both sought after as high school recruits and both ended up at Pac-12 schools. Buckner starred at Oregon, where he was the conference defensive player of the year as a senior in 2105. Meanwhile, Fairbairn won the Lou Groza Award, given to the nation’s best kicker, as a senior at UCLA in 2015.
But when Ane thinks back to when they first entered the Punahou program as high schoolers, he remembers the immense raw talent they both had. He also recalls how much each developed and honed their crafts to become the impact pros they are today.
“With DeForest, you could just see that he was so big, but he had that work ethic and he continued to do those things. His future was great but again, there’s so many variables, so many possibilities that go on,” Ane recalls. “For Ka’imi, it was a little bit different. He’s a kicker. He started from scratch. It wasn’t his first sport; it wasn’t his first love. He had to work and fall in love with the game and visualize the possibilities.
“They both are where they want to be, but their paths are totally different. But the one constant is their work ethic and both were great teammates.”
The pair have combined to exceed $100 million in their respective deals, but Ane says that figure won’t change who they are.
“There’s a lot of money out there,” Ane said with a smile. “We’re really happy for them because days go fast, you’re never guaranteed anything. They’ve both worked really hard for everything they’ve accomplished. We’re just hoping they both continue to prosper and represent like they have.”