Marketing & Communications
Falcon lineman draws strength from family
David "Chief" Kekuewa
David “Chief Kekuewa,” who plays center on BG’s offensive line, was cheered on by his father Bruce, mother Lisanne, and sister Kamalanai when they traveled from their home state of Hawaii to rally for the Falcons at the Military Bowl.
On the surface, home and family seem so distant, half a world away for David "Chief" Kekuewa. You have to traverse 4,400 miles and pass through six time zones to reach the town of Keaau on the island of Hawaii, where his roots are anchored.
But for the junior offensive lineman on the Falcon football team, that seemingly unmanageable distance became almost insignificant this past year. His parents and sisters stayed close to him through daily calls, weekly video chats, and several marathon journeys to watch Chief play. And his Falcon family joined in with support and friendship, Midwest style.
"For Hawaiians, and Polynesians in general, family is very important," Chief said. "That is one of our main values, so that aspect was critical when I looked at different schools.
"Then, when I visited Bowling Green and met some of the guys here, we didn't talk much about football. We talked a lot about our families, our cultures, and our lives. What got to me was that they were very open, like family, so I accepted them as family. That's why I chose here."
Chief had members of his Hawaii family in the stands at three games this past season, including at the Military Bowl in Washington, D.C. His father Bruce, a high school football coach, said he was not surprised that his son was able to settle in so far from home and feel comfortable.
"In Polynesian culture, your family is your core. In everything you do, you represent not only your immediate family, but your extended family as well. And there is strength that comes from that," Bruce Kekuewa said.
Despite not being recruited out of high school, Chief had a very successful two seasons at Arizona Western Junior College in Yuma. He had many options coming into his junior year, but Bowling Green offered something that he felt was missing at other Division I schools.
"He met Chris Jones and Jordon Roussos, and they really welcomed him in, and I think he felt like a part of the community right away," Bruce Kekuewa said. "Those are really humble guys, and that fit his personality. It just created a comfort zone for him."
Offensive line coach Bill Durkin expected a very challenging sales job was in front of him when he tried to recruit Chief. Durkin laughs now, readily admitting he was so glad to be wrong.
"As a player, he was very attractive to a lot of teams, and we expected his first inclination would be to go someplace with Polynesian connections," Durkin said. "But Chief is a very unique kid. He knew what he wanted, and he was looking for the best situation for him. We presented ourselves, I continued to recruit him, and once he got here on a visit, he fell in love with the place. He couldn't get enough."
Head coach Dave Clawson said any reservations he had about a recruit from so far away disappeared after a few minutes with Chief.
"I had him over to my house for dinner with my family, and the way he handled himself, I knew right away that this was not a typical 20-year-old kid," Clawson said. "He had a big-picture perspective. He knew he was here for two reasons - to get a degree and to play football. He takes both of those commitments very seriously. He's a very spiritual guy with a mature perspective on everything."
Chief's work ethic quickly won over his teammates, and his personality started to lay claim to the campus.
"The kids respect him and he's made unbelievable friends with them," Durkin said. "He works hard and he's one of the strongest kids on the team, and that's certainly an impact right away. He's got his long hair and his culture that he is so proud of, and he's just such a unique kid. People are drawn to him, and he thrives on that."
"What got to me was that they were very open, like family, so I accepted them as family. That's why I chose here."As part of his game-day ritual, Chief calls his parents after the Falcons warm up, tells them he loves them, and then plays the game with a maximum level of commitment. He won a critical position at center and started all 13 games this past season.
"If it's possible, he almost cares too much," Clawson said. "If there's a game that we won, but he feels he didn't play as well as he's capable of, he is almost inconsolable afterwards. He has such a high standard for himself."
Clawson said that after meeting Chief's parents, the whole picture surrounding the 6-2, 308-pound center became very clear.
"He is a guy who was raised right by great parents who really, really love him," Clawson said. "He is a high character guy, but he's not the way he is because of anything we did. He has been awesome because of the way his parents raised him. They deserve all of the credit."
"I thank them, and I thank God that they are my parents," said Chief, an environmental policy major. "I never thought any of this would happen, but they've given me the chance to play Division I football and, hopefully, in the future maybe continue my football career. I am very blessed."
Bruce Kekuewa said that when he and Chief's mother Lisanne visited BG for the first time, they were happy to see how comfortably their son had assimilated into the university community. And when they met another family from Hawaii in the bookstore, that 4,400 miles to home did not look so significant.
"The world got a whole lot smaller that day," Bruce Kekuewa said. "Family is so important to my son, and he has his family in Hawaii, and now he has his football family in Bowling Green."
(Posted January 22, 2013 )