Wailuku - Maui’s own Kaluka Maiava was drafted by the Cleveland Browns on July 25 as their new incoming linebacker. Could he possibly be the missing link that the Browns’ defense needs to advance to the playoffs this year?
Maiava graduated from Baldwin High School in 2005 and continued on to the University of Southern California on a football scholarship. He is the first athlete from Maui to play for USC’s football team.
I always thought that he was underappreciated in the media, playing in the shadows of star defensive players Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing.
“Of course they didn’t pay me any attention; I would not pay any attention to me also,” Maiava said. “Rey and Brian are the true definition of football and linebacker. They are both amazing athletes and without them, I would have never had the personal success on the field that I had. I owe a lot to Rey and Brian.”
Maiava’s impressive stats throughout his high school and college careers earned him his position with the Browns, and I think he will have an equally impressive professional career.
In his senior year of college (his only starting season), Maiava earned the second team All-Pac-10 accolade. He also won many other awards including defensive MVP honors in the Trojans’ Rose Bowl victory over Penn State.
Maiava finished the 08’-09’ season with 66 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss, finishing behind only Maualuga and Cushing atop the Trojans’ stat sheet.
While I would like to have seen Maiava play on the first string throughout his time at USC, seeing him start in his senior year was still exciting. Maiava agreed, “It was the greatest feeling in the world being named a starter for the best team in the nation, although, I wish I could have started all 4 years. But, I had the opportunity to play and learn from a bunch of future NFL legends such as Keith Rivers, who now plays for the Cincinnati Bengals.”
Throughout his professional career, I expect to see Maiava excel over time as his experience continues to grow.
I would love to see him earn a cool nickname like “The Flyin’ Hawaiian,” like Philadelphia Phillie’s Maui-grown outfielder Shane Victorino. In fact, I will propose my own nickname for him right here: “The Maiava.”
When I asked Maiava about it, he said that “Kalukx” (Kuh-Louks) is what his friends call him from time to time. He is okay with that, but he draws the line at nicknaming yourself. He said, “Giving yourself a nickname is lame.” I would agree, The Maiava.
One of Maiava’s greatest influences comes from Seattle Seahawks linebacker, Lofa Tatupu.
“Nobody believed in him,” said Maiava. “But he still proved them wrong, and he is now one of the top linebackers in the NFL.” He calls these non-believers “haters.” “The haters are the ones that really inspire and motivate me. I love haters,” he said.
I would love to see Maiava and Tatupu playing on the same field and dominating the defensive game. It would be awesome to see Maiava face off against one of the greatest linebackers ever.
Maiava cannot help but to make an impression on the field. He has done it here and will continue to do it in Cleveland. I will be watching for Maiava to show some grit and real Maui-style edge while in the NFL.
Overall, hopes are high for Kaluka Maiava, even though they currently stand with one of the worst records of the season; I am looking forward to seeing how he will affect the dynamics of the Browns’ defense and what he will contribute to the gridiron.