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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Washington football player on new mission

By Leila Wai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Will Kava

After spending two years as a foreigner, Will Kava returned to a place almost as unfamiliar.

Kava is hoping to return to the University of Washington football team after taking two years off to go on a Mormon mission to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ghana.

"That's as far as you can get from Hawai'i," he said. "Just great people. Life is a little hard for them, compared to how we have it, but it's nice to know that people over there just keep living their lives, day by day."

Kava, a 2001 graduate of Iolani, was an Advertiser All-State first-team selection. During the two years he was away, the Huskies underwent two coaching changes, including the hiring of current coach Tyrone Willingham.

Coach Rick Neuheisel recruited Kava, but Neuheisel was fired for gambling on NCAA basketball in 2003, and he was succeeded by Keith Gilbertson, who stepped down after two years.

Willingham was named the coach of the Huskies last December.

Kava attended Washington for two years, redshirting his freshman year, before leaving for West Africa.

"I learned a lot about myself, about the church, and how people are," he said of his mission. "People in the U.S. are kind of in our little bubble and we don't know what is happening.

"There was a lot of poverty, but the thing that made it hard, they are always fighting, there is no peace over there. I didn't realize what a blessing it is where we can just be at peace and do our own thing. Apart from worrying about their families, they have to worry about their safety."

He looks at that experience as a "wake-up call," and plans to take things more seriously.

"I think I just have more value for life," he said. "I got to see first hand how short life can be.

"I used to call family once in a while, but now I touch base with them at least once every day. I was drifting around before, but now I'm trying to set goals for myself, trying to get things done."

At 6 feet 3 and 280 pounds, the offensive guard wants to gain 20 more pounds by the time the season starts.

"Being from Hawai'i, it's not hard to gain weight at all, but it's hard to gain good weight," he said.

He has gained about 30 pounds since he has been back, "but I don't know if that's Jack in the Box weight, or from working out," he said.

After Kava returned to Hawai'i from West Africa, he contacted Willingham with help from Ink Aleaga, former Pac-Five (via Maryknoll) and NFL player, and Willingham told him to come to Seattle.

After 1 1/2 weeks in Hawai'i in May, he returned to Seattle to resume classes and training.

"They promised a scholarship in the fall," he said.

He will be a redshirt sophomore with three more years to play. He played in about half the games in his redshirt freshman season in 2002.

Getting back into playing shape is hard, considering he didn't have facilities or partners to help him train while on his mission.

"We basically just walked every day, and I tried to do push-ups and sit-ups on my own," he said. "I'm getting better, but I'm nowhere near where I need to be."

At least he is back in the United States where things are slowly returning to normal for him, and starting to become more familiar.

"It's good, there's a lot of things I miss about being back here," he said. "I missed Hawai'i a lot. I didn't know it before, until I went out there, but it's good to be back."