Kapisi making most of opportunities

Maui High graduate is a two-time walk-on for Cougars, who host Rainbow Warriors on Saturday

Jared Kapisi walked on at BYU in 2014 as a freshman and again in 2017 following a two-year mission to Scottsdale, Ariz. BYU / Jaren Wilkey photos

Jared Kapisi has always viewed his time with the Brigham Young University football team as opportunities waiting to be fulfilled.

Saturday’s game against the University of Hawaii in Provo, Utah, will have a little added motivation for Kapisi, a 2014 graduate of Maui High School.

“It’s definitely cool because it’s a place that I came from, so it’s cool to play against a team that I wasn’t recruited by,” Kapisi said via phone following practice on Tuesday. “I wasn’t looked at by them, so it’s cool to go against somebody I kind of see as … I see it as an ‘I proved them wrong’ kind of thing.”

Kapisi, a redshirt sophomore defensive back for the Cougars who played mostly wide receiver and place kicker for the Sabers, holds no ill will toward the 6-1 Rainbow Warriors.

“I overcame exactly what they thought I couldn’t do, but not to make it sound, like, messed up or anything,” he said. “That’s the way I see it — an opportunity. Nothing disrespectful to them.

Jared Kapisi and BYU play the University of Hawaii football team Saturday in Provo, Utah.

“In high school I wasn’t that type of guy to be recruited there — it’s just kind of a way to show how far I’ve come, just how hard I’ve worked to make it to where I am now.”

Kapisi has successfully walked on twice at BYU for two different coaching staffs — as a freshman in 2014 and again in 2017 following his two-year mission to Scottsdale, Ariz.

“It took a lot to come back from the mission and get back in shape that quick to get back on the team,” he said.

Kapisi starts on kickoff and kickoff return teams for BYU and is a backup on several others. He often kicks in practice, much to the delight of his defensive back brothers.

“He’s come a very, very long way, especially moving from wide out and coming over to me to play corner,” BYU cornerbacks coach Jernaro Gilford said. “The thing that helps him out the most is his knowledge for the game. Kudos to his high school coach, they did a great job with him. … When he lines up to kick in practice, all of our guys line up to cheer him on.”

After a redshirt year in 2014, Kapisi played wide receiver last season for the scout team. Now, he is on the travel squad after the switch to defensive back and has played in all six games for the 3-3 Cougars. His first career tackle came in a season-opening win at Arizona.

“I moved to corner in spring ball because I felt like I was more natural at corner,” Kapisi said. “Just ever since then I’ve been trying to work my craft at corner, trying to get better. … I played corner a little bit in high school, but I wasn’t very good.”

Now, along with Atunaisa Vainikolo (Buffalo), Moana Vainikolo (New Mexico) and Feleti Afemui (Vanderbilt), he is one of four Sabers playing NCAA Division I football. Tristan Nichols is redshirting at Nevada.

“It’s definitely a surreal feeling,” Kapisi said. “In high school I would watch BYU football. I would just watch these guys and I’d say, ‘Man, it would be crazy if I ever got to play there.’

“Then my senior year finished and I got accepted to the school, but not for any scholarships or anything. I was, like, ‘I think I’m going to push myself to the point where I could play kicker or receiver.’ That was kind of the wake-up call.”

Kapisi’s younger sister Kalia and older brother Keone both attend BYU. Kalia place kicked for two years and was a soccer standout for Maui High, while Keone plays for the BYU men’s soccer team that represented the U.S. in the World University Games in 2017.

“(Keone) definitely is an example to me of how to balance school and sports,” Jared Kapisi said. “He does it very well — I’m kind of taking notes on him. We talk about it a lot, about how stressful it is, about how glorified it is when you achieve the type of goals you set. It’s definitely cool to have a brother to talk to.”

And Kalia is always there to push her middle brother — all three Kapisis started at place kicker for the Sabers.

“It’s funny, she always will like dog on me about certain things about the game,” Jared Kapisi said. “She will tell me, ‘Hey, you missed this tackle, you missed that tackle.’ It’s funny, it’s motivational. She likes to be the motivator.

“Before games she’ll say, ‘You guys better not lose. If you guys lose, I don’t know anymore.’ After the game she’ll be like, ‘You got down there, but you didn’t make the tackle.’ “

Jared Kapisi plans to join the Global Supply Chain major next year in the BYU business school. He also plans to keep building on what he has started on the football field.

“I’ll definitely stay for another two years — I’m not too sure about playing time or anything like that,” he said. “I just have got to keep working at it, but I definitely feel like I’m in a good position right now to show the coaches what I got.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

Notable College Football on TV


6 a.m.–Minnesota at No. 3 Ohio St., FS1

8:30 a.m.–Pittsburgh at No. 5 Notre Dame, NBC

9:30 a.m.–No. 2 Georgia at No. 13 LSU, CBS

9:30 a.m.–No. 7 Washington at No. 17 Oregon, ABC or ESPN2

9:30 a.m.–No. 10 UCF at Memphis, ABC or ESPN2

9:30 a.m.–Baylor at No. 9 Texas, ESPN

1 p.m.–Missouri at No. 1 Alabama, ESPN

1:30 p.m.–No. 15 Wisconsin at No. 12 Michigan, ABC

4:15 p.m.–Hawaii at BYU, ESPN2