Character development: Hilo High football assistant Tomaselli preaches unity to students

  • Tribune-Herald file photo Former High High standout Kahale Huddleston, the 2017 BIIF Division I offensive player of the year who now plays for Hawaii, has been a guest speakers at Zeke Tomaselli's weekly character classes on Zoom.

  • Zeke Tomaselli

Kahu Zeke Tomaselli jokes that eight years ago he was the Hilo High football team’s equipment manager.

Now he’s an assistant coach in charge of the running backs and also the junior varsity head coach. But a bigger role for Kahu Zeke is as a character class instructor. Classes are held every Wednesday night on Zoom. (Anyone interested can check out Kahu Zeke on Instagram.)

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He’s also a pastor at Ohana Church, where the mission is to bring people into God’s ohana through Jesus. He’s spent seven years there serving that purpose. Kahu Zeke is doing the same thing with his character classes on Wednesdays. He’s been doing it since 2017.

“Powerful things have evolved out of it with students sharing real-life issues and finding leadership principles that sharpen their everyday lives,” he said. “With this unfortunate season, it has really provided a sense of community for these students.

“We’ve got people from Waiakea, Kamehameha, Haili Christian. It’s really been the backbone of our program from coach Kaeo (Drummondo). I went to school for that, and I’m continuing my Ph.D. in theology.”

The Zoom classes average between 35 to 40 people and feature guest speakers, such as former Viking Kalen White, who’s playing ball at Pacific Lutheran.

“We talk about leadership, teamwork, time management. A lot of different topics that develop student character,” Kahu Zeke said. “Kalen shared his character development. We had Kahele Huddleston from UH-Manoa. He shared his challenges and getting used to the culture context change in college life.

“I feel it creates lokahi, unity among the community. It’s a great way relating to the different schools. Our slogan is ‘Good character produces good character.’ We’ve seen good results from this class.”

Kahu Zeke is trying to line up UH coach Todd Graham as a guest speaker. He also landed New Mexico Military Institute coach Joe Forchtner. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Jordan Taamu, from Pearl City, Oahu, went to school there before transferring to Mississippi.

“If kids want to go to the next level to college, that’s what the coaches look for, character,” Kahu Zeke said. “It’s cool when the coaches say that’s what they’re looking for.”

The Vikings are holding a lot of Zoom calls while the BIIF works on a football schedule.

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“Right now, we’re in the white period. We can meet in small groups,” he said. “On Zoom calls, we’re doing a lot of Xs and Os and technical stuff.

“We can’t use the school to lift weight. We focus on agility and communication.”

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