Feeling good: Kapisi settles in at safety in senior year with Cougars
Jared Kapisi’s football journey has been a long and winding road.
The 2014 Maui High School graduate has arrived — in several ways — as a senior free safety for the Brigham Young University football team, which opens its season Monday at Navy.
“It’s an awesome feeling — I feel like I’ve kind of gone the hard route, gone through the trenches of switching positions and just kind of failing and coming back, going the hard route,” Kapisi said Tuesday. “It’s been nice to be able to contribute and know that I’m in a position where I can really help out the team and make plays for the team.”
Kapisi led the Maui Interscholastic League in receptions as a Maui High junior and was fourth on the list as a senior. He made the BYU roster as a walk-on freshman wide receiver in 2014, but that was seemingly a lifetime ago.
He also lined up for the Cougars at cornerback, place kicker and punter before settling in at free safety over the winter. He is listed at co-No. 2 for the position on the BYU depth chart this week.
His career statistics amount to four total tackles, all accumulated when he appeared in 12 games in 2018 as a cornerback. Last season, he appeared in two games and did not have a tackle.
Now, at the start of his final season, he is in prime position for significant playing time for the first time in his career, which was separated by his LDS mission to Scottsdale, Ariz., in 2015 and 2016.
“I feel like I’m in a good spot, but I’m not really happy with where I’m at,” Kapisi said. “I’m always pushing to be better and continue to get better. I’m at free safety and I feel good. I actually played a little bit of free safety at Maui High, but not to the extent where they were like, ‘We want you to play, we want you to be our starting safety.’
“I felt like I had learned a little bit in high school, but not enough to play in college and now I feel like with the coaches that I have and some of my peers, too, they’ve helped me get to where I’m right now. Playing corner as well was really good for me to learn how to play defense.”
BYU safeties coach Preston Hadley values having the experience of Kapisi in the film room.
“He’s been here for a long time, so I think that’s the first thing that jumps out, his experience and then just his grit,” Hadley said. “In my whole time around him, whether he’s in our position room or not, he’s always approached the day with the same demeanor regardless of what his circumstances or situation is.”
Kapisi is the third oldest of Joe and Miki Kapisi’s six children — older brother Keone played for BYU’s soccer team in the World University Games, while sisters Kalia and Sala were standouts for the Sabers soccer team. Like Jared, Kalia was a starter at place kicker for the Maui High football team.
Jared Kapisi, an experience, design and management major, marvels at the time he has spent in Provo, Utah. At one point, he fell into “limbo with the coaches” as they tried him as a rugby punter, but he’s at home now.
“I feel good at safety, I feel I can play at the speed they need me to play at and be able to do that, so yeah, I feel good,” he said. “It’s a good feeling, but I don’t like to get too high on myself. I’ve got to remember the next guy up behind me is ready to go.”
He knows the road from Maui High has reached an unlikely landing spot.
“It sometimes feels surreal, like thinking about playing for BYU when I was in high school, and then now being a contributor and being on the depth chart, all that,” he said. “For me, it is like a dream come true, so I’ve got to make the most of it, try to not take any days for granted and just keep grinding.”
Kapisi has a message for all of the players following in his footpath, a road that has been made tougher to traverse by COVID-19.
“Coming from Maui, it’s such a small place that you never really see yourself on a big stage, you never really think of yourself as a big-stage kind of guy, or really put yourself in that light,” Kapisi said. “I know sometimes as a high schooler — I know I tell my younger brother this all the time, he plays at Punahou. I tell him, ‘Don’t think it so far-fetched for you to be a big-time player, like a scholarship guy or whatever, don’t think that it’s so out of this world for you to make it to Division I football.’
“You can really do anything you set your mind to, but you’ve got to be consistent, you’ve got to be coachable and you’ve got to be consistent in your training. When you line up all those things and apply it in your everyday life. … You’ve got to just go and get better every day.”
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com.