The place was Wailuku, Maui Hawaii. It was about six years ago. I was attending a high school football game for Baldwin High School. I teach there and was at the game with a co-teacher. Before the game, he told me I had to check out this kid in my math class. I asked, "what's his name?" He replied, "Kaluka Maiava."
Then when the game started, this kid was just dominating on the defensive side of the ball. At middle linebacker he was just all over the ball. For two seasons, he led the team in tackles. Both of those years he was the leader and the team was a game away from a state title.
Over those two years, Maiava was getting scholarship offers from everywhere. He could have started as a freshman at UCLA and some other schools. Instead he chose USC, where no starting jobs are handed to you. He knew he would have to work for it.
His first three years, he was primarily used on special teams. He made a huge impact there. He was the special teams player of the year at least once.
With guys like Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing, and Clay Matthews, it was hard for Maiava to crack the starting lineup. However, Pete Carroll made some adjustments for his senior year. He felt that he could no longer keep him off the starting defense. He moved Clay Matthews to defensive end. That way all four linebackers would be on the field at once.
Teams thought that they could attack Maiava because they didn't want to attack the other three. Well Maiava answered the call, and was a great compliment to Rey and Cush at linebacker. The end result was one of the best college defenses I have ever seen.
Looking back at his time at USC, one would ask "do you wish you had gone somewhere else so you would be more recognizable?" The reality is that with most other Pac 10 schools, he would have been the star. However, Maiava would tell you that he wouldn't change anything. The hard work only made him a better player and better person.
Now what can the Cleveland Browns expect from him this year? He will probably return to the all important role of special teams star. That is a role that is often overlooked but is very important.
Maybe he will be a defensive starter eventually but he will have to work for it. But then again, he has been there before.