As Keelan Ewaliko was leading Baldwin High School to its second straight boys state track and field title last weekend, University of Hawaii football coach Norm Chow was watching.
Now, instead of standing by as a redshirt or enrolling in the winter, Ewaliko says he will likely play for the Rainbow Warriors this fall.
"It happened through track," Ewaliko said Saturday, a day after graduating from Baldwin. "We were at the state track meet and I didn't know anything. Then I won the 100 (meters), coach Chow called my mom and he said, like, 'Oh, I want him now,' and stuff. As we won the (400) relay, he called again and he was like, 'Yup, this solidifies the decision.' "
‘Track opened his eyes, made him realize he wanted me now.’
– Five-time state track champion Keelan Ewaliko, on UH football coach Norm Chow
Keelan Ewaliko, a three-time Maui Interscholastic League Offensive Player of the Year as a quarterback at Baldwin High School, has been told he will be a receiver or kick returner at Hawaii.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Ewaliko also won the 200 on May 11 at Mililani's Kau-inana Stadium, and earned five state gold medals in the two years he ran track.
"I feel like I knew how fast I was, but as I was running the races I didn't really know that was me," he said. "I'm so used to people being up and up with me that when I was kind of ahead, I was, like, 'Wow, I have that much speed?' The sky is the limit, I can get faster.
"It has only been two years, but I have come to love it. It's a great sport."
2013 UH Schedule
All times HST Home games in bold
x-Mountain West Conference game
Aug. 29-Southern Cal, 5 p.m.
Sept. 7-at Oregon St., time TBA
Sept. 21-x-at Nevada, time TBA
Sept. 28-x-Fresno St., time TBA
Oct. 5-x-San Jose St., time TBA
Oct. 12-x-at UNLV, time TBA
Oct. 26-x-Colorado St., time TBA
Nov. 2-x-at Utah St., 10 a.m.
Nov. 9-at Navy , 10:30 a.m.
Nov. 16-x-San Diego St., 5:30 p.m.
Nov. 23-x-at Wyoming, time TBA
Nov. 30-Army, time TBA
When Ewaliko was being recruited by UH, the plan was for him to enroll in January - saving five years to play four, beginning in the fall of 2014.
"Track opened his eyes, made him realize he wanted me now," Ewaliko said of Chow. "It's pretty awesome - I'm stoked, I'm excited, a little nervous, but more excitement than anything. I'm going to go up there, play hard, give it my all."
Ewaliko was a three-time Maui Interscholastic League Offensive Player of the Year as a quarterback. He has been told that at UH he will line up at wide receiver or slotback - which he last played as a freshman on the Baldwin junior varsity - and kick returner.
"I did it more in Pop Warner," he said. "I haven't played receiver in a while, but it's not that hard to adjust. It's a little bit of a change, but everything else is pretty much the same."
Hawaii was 3-9 last season - Ewaliko was 22-0 against the MIL as Baldwin's starting quarterback.
"I'm looking forward to a gradual change," Ewaliko said. "I'm nothing really special, but I think I can help turn things around."
Ewaliko, 6 feet tall and 175 pounds, said he would like to be "at least 185, 190" for fall camp. A redshirt season is possible, though unlikely, he said.
"They told me to come in ready to play," Ewaliko said. "Come hard, come ready - and I feel I'm ready. I have gotten way faster than football season, so that's good."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org