Still the same: Hilo High alum Kalen White makes smooth transition to college football

  • Pacific Lutheran photo In his freshman season at Pacific Lutheran, Kalen White led the Lutes in sacks and tackles for loss and was second in tackles.

The competition was bigger and stronger – no comparison, really – and the games were played faster.

The team result? Ugh. Worse. Much worse, even though the season was shorter.

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And, of course, the weather was colder, it being winter in Tacoma, Washington, and all.

Kalen White?

Well, not much has changed in his regard. He’s as steady as ever and still doubles as a tackling machine at linebacker. The former Hilo High football standout handled the transition to NCAA Division III with poise, passion and aplomb after waiting out the pandemic to finally take the field for February football at Pacific Lutheran.

“My favorite moments from playing this season we’re definitely being able to compete against other people, hit new people,” White said, “make new friends and showing others what I am capable of.”

White, 5 feet, 9 inches and 190 pounds, can still accomplish a lot. The former two-time BIIF Division I defensive player of the year wrapped up a four-game freshman season earlier this month by earning Northwest Conference defensive player of the week accolades after making 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack against Whitworth on March 13.

Making an impact from the get-go – he made seven tackles with a sack in his first game of the abbreviated season – White led the winless Lutes in sacks (2 1/2) and tackles for loss (5 1/2) and was second in tackles (36).

“Going from the BIIF to collegiate football was a huge change in size and also the speed of the game is a lot quicker,” he said. “I managed to handle (it) with the lifting program we have here at (Pacific Lutheran) and just the training I was doing back at home with Coach Maurice (Silva) in Panaewa during the offseason.”

Playing with the Vikings helped as well. In winning seven consecutive BIIF Division I titles, the last five under Kaeo Drummondo, Hilo’s program established a dedicated, near year-round workaholic culture that would make some college programs envious.

“The main thing that I took from being a Viking was having a good, strong character, the ability to work hard, compete at high levels, and ‘not let complacency sink in’ as Coach Kaeo would say,” White said.

While his playmaking potential at linebacker remained intact, he couldn’t play for a dynasty forever. White’s last game before his Lutes debut was the Vikings’ HHSAA Division I championship victory against Iolani in November 2019, Hilo’s second state crown in three seasons. Pacific Lutheran’s four losses – the Lutes were outscored 132-60 – in a span of five weeks matched Hilo’s total during White’s four years in high school. The Viks’ last league loss came midway though White’s sophomore season.

“Losing was rough and challenging, it was something I never really had to face before or in a long time,” he said. “It changed my view of playing and the reason why I’m still playing. But I hope in the future I can help turn things around.”

Off the field, White’s working toward a business degree with a focus on marketing. On it, he’s eyeing becoming an all-conference linebacker, and possible an All-American, he said.

White had to wait through the suspended fall 2020 season to hit the playing field in college, so he can only imagine what his former Hilo teammates and every BIIF student-athlete is going through during the shutdown.

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“I would just like to give a shout-out to the kids back home working out everyday who didn’t have a chance to compete this year, and (to) the seniors that lost their season due to COVID to stay committed and keep training until they’re able to compete again after this year,” he said.

“The Vikings are going to have new things coming their way soon, and I can’t wait to see what they do with it.”

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