Chasing his chance: Hilo’s Ambrosio moves to Utah to pursue his college dream

  • Jase Ambrosio plays for Division 5A Highland High Rams in Utah.

Jase Ambrosio saw his shot at a college scholarship sailing away, especially with no game film for coaches to evaluate, so he connected with all right people and landed in Utah, where playing football is making his dream come true.

The 5-foot-9, 250-pound defensive end/offensive lineman attended summer football camps, impressed trainer Anton Palepoi, a former NFL player, who knew Highland High coach Kautai Olevao, who played at the University of Utah.


Ambrosio is starting on both sides of the ball for the Division 5A Highland Rams (0-2) and living with Olevao, who knows Hezekiah Anahu-Ambrosio, father to former Konawaena players Hezekiah “Kiah” and Zedekiah. The brothers attended BYU’s camp and were offered scholarships.

Kiah, a junior safety/linebacker, and Zedekiah, a freshman slotback/running back, are playing for the Timpview Thunderbirds (3-2), who are also in Division 5A, one step below the state’s top division.

“My goal is to be a college football player and have a better opportunity for my family,” said Ambrosio, who’s related to the Anahu-Ambrosio family. “But with no game film, it wouldn’t be a possibility. I never played a varsity game. The first time I played was my sophomore season. We didn’t have a junior season, and I didn’t want to take any chances that Hawaii would have a season.

“I came to Utah during the same time as them (Anahu-Ambrosio brothers) but went to different camps. Anton liked what he saw of me and reached out to Kautai. I was training right across from Highland High School. That’s how Kautai and I met.”

He had full support from his parents, Jason and Misty Ambrosio, to make the move to Utah on July 7. His sister is Kaila Ambrosio, a 2019 Kamehameha graduate, who’s playing soccer at UNLV. Ambrosio played soccer, too, until he found a better fit with football.

“In my life, my parents supported me in everything I did,” Ambrosio said. “They said do my best and see what I can do out here. My dad is super supportive. He’s the one telling me I’m one of the few with this opportunity. I took that to heart. My mom was sad but understands that it had to be done. It’s a little harder for moms than dads. It’s OK though. They’re both super supportive, and we’re always in contact.”

Ambrosio is a bit of a genetic mystery. He’s 5-9, Kaila is 5-3, but his dad is 5-2 and his mom is 5-3.

“I don’t know where I got my size. I got lucky I guess,” he said. “The school is good over here. Everyone is cool, no fights like in Hawaii. Highland is a good mix of a handful of Polynesians and Caucasians. They’re all cool and super enthusiastic about sports. We’ve got 2,000 something kids in the school.

“You can leave your windows down. Nobody steals over here. It’s a whole different vibe. It’s a home away from home. It’s a nice place. The weather is usually in the 90s every day. There’s a lot of green out here, nice mountain views. I wear surf shorts and T-shirt and have shoes on, have to look a little bit classy.”

Much like Hilo, everything is five minutes away, except for the nearest water source.

“Walmart is two minutes away,” he said.” Everything is pretty close. We’re living in the city, but not quite the city. We take a 45-mine ride to the lake, where we jet ski and go on a boat. There’s a bowling place and roller blade place, like Ice Palace.”

He’s getting his fill of Polynesian food because Olevao is quite the chef. And don’t worry mom and dad, your son is doing chores and helping out.

“Back home, I would cut grass for six hours. There’s not a lot of grass to cut here,” Ambrosio said. “I take out the trash and wash dishes.”

Even better, Ambrosio is killing it in school, and he’s being looked at by a Division III school in Oregon.


“I’m doing good in school, all A’s and one B,” he said. “My old teammates support me, too. They comment on my Instagram (_jmoney_56) when I post pictures or game highlights.”

His Instagram quote sums up his Hilo-to-Utah mission: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.”

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