Nobody can blame state Rep. Chris Todd (D-Hilo) for forming policies at the legislative level and then leaving it to the little guy to worry about the details.
Todd is likely to get his hands dirty with his newest constituency: an irrepressible group of teenagers known as the Hilo High football team.
Vikings athletic director Kaeo Drummondo on Sunday announced Todd’s hiring as head coach. Each stepped away from the program but not for long, reuniting the braintrust that helped turn Hilo in a state Division I powerhouse.
“Part of it is you really get to see the growth of the student-athletes, and I think that can be addicting,” Todd said. “Going through the cycle of having to find solutions on and off the field and seeing the growth, and I think that can be pretty intoxicating at times.”
Todd, Hilo’s former offensive coordinator and a longtime assistant, technically takes over for Laveitiga Suiaunoa, who was hired last year to replace Drummondo but never coached a game because the 2020 season was canceled by the pandemic. Drummondo resigned after the 2019 season to pursue a coaching opportunity at Kamehameha-Kapalama on Oahu, but he returned last year to assume the role of Hilo athletic director.
He opened the football coaching position back open in February after Suiaunoa resigned, and Drummondo’s presence piqued Todd’s interest. He had planned to sit out the 2020 season anyway so he could spend time with his 3-year-old daughter until she was ready for preschool. He called his relationship with Drummondo “like a second marriage.”
“When Kaeo stepped in (as athletic director), that was very exciting for all of us, that got the juices flowing a little bit about what we can accomplish together,” Todd said.
They’ve already accomplished a lot.
Todd, a 2006 Hilo High graduate and third-generation Viking, became an assistant in 2010 and was retained when David Baldwin took over the program in 2012, bringing along Drummondo as defensive coordinator. Drummondo took over as coach in 2015 – serving as his own defensive coordinator – Todd became offensive coordinator in 2016, and all the while the Vikings won seven consecutive BIIF D-I titles and two state championships. In 2019, Hilo’s spread offense averaged more than 50 points a game en route to a last-second victory against Iolani in the state championship game.
“My plan is to maintain control of the offense and do my best to find a defensive coordinator to fill Kaeo’s shoes,” Todd, 33, said. “That is going to be a big priority.”
He said he’d already talked with approximately a dozen people regarding positions on his staff, including former players and assistants as well as “new blood.”
“Regardless of whether it’s me calling plays or someone else,” Todd said, “it’s going to be same philosophy: allowing and empowering our players to be coaches on the field.”
His staff will take on a more important role during the first four months of the year, when Todd said he is usually on Oahu five days a week to carry out his duties with the legislature. But he said his role as offensive coordinator, which already ate up 500 to 600 hours of his time a year, prepared him to juggle duties.
“There will be more administrative work (as coach) and organizing people, but I know what I’m getting myself into,” he said.
Perhaps the two most recognizable names from the 2019 team set to return next season are running back/linebacker Lyle Silva and defensive lineman Tysen Kaniaupio, who each started as freshmen and sophomores for the Vikings. Certain players have been working out at the high school in controlled environment, Todd said.
He urged any players interested in coming out for the team to contact Drummondo.
“The plan is to have a few meetings this week and then hit the ground running on (May 31),” Todd said.
And who says politics and sports don’t mix? Todd finds them to be fitting complement to each other.
“I try to maximize what I can provide to the community,” Todd said. “Being in the legislature is very top down. You’re talking about trying to deliver funding for programs, but you don’t actually play a role in administering those programs.
“It’s really a rewarding experience, being hands on and working with young people, trying to mold them and hopefully change lives for the better.”