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2024 NFL Draft Prospect Interview: Makani Kaneaiakala, TE, Ottawa University (AZ)

Makani Kaneaiakala, TE, Ottawa University (AZ)
Makani Kaneaiakala the standout tight end from Ottawa University (AZ) recently sat down with Justin Berendzen of Draft Diamonds
  • Name: Makani Kaneaiakala
  • Position: TE
  • College: Ottawa University (Arizona)
  • Height: 6’5”
  • Weight: 240 lbs
  • X (Twitter): @mkaneaikala
  • Instagram: @makani_81

What made you decide you wanted to be a football player?

It started with my dad introducing and throwing me into the sport very young. He saw the way I’d play in the backyard, beach, park, street, and even at his music gigs on the grass with my brothers, cousins, friends, and family. At that moment he immediately knew and said “I’m gonna throw that boy in football”. And so he did! Along with that, I come from a football family my dad and his brothers were star football players in Hawaii and my grandfather was a known offensive line coach and football enthusiast as well so it made sense why my path and decision of football came all together.

What are your favorite moments from your football life?

My favorite moments of my football life are the memories made with my teammates and the coaches from every school I’ve attended and the teams I’ve played on. I was able to grow as a player, have a better understanding of the game, and get to know the origins/upbringings of my teammates and coaches to me it was a bond that can’t be broken and it was special to me. Another favorite moment is seeing my parents and family always coming to my games or supporting me from afar no matter where I played or when it was, that type of support you just can’t beat and I’ll cherish that for the rest of my days.

What are you looking to achieve as a football player going forward?

Consistency!! That’s the answer. I stand by the quote “There’s always room for improvement” I’m not going to perform perfectly all the time or be at my best so working on staying consistent to perform well with fewer mistakes would be a huge achievement. Football gets harder and harder in the levels you climb. Reps become limited so making sure that I attack every rep, stay consistent with doing the right things, and come in with a great attitude to take coaching and critique. I feel like that can keep my hopes, chances of a roster spot, and sticking around in the NFL alive.

If you could hang out with any football player past or present for a day who and why?

It would be Ray Lewis! Because of the type of player and person he was. He impacted many of us ball players today with his energy, combination of skills on the field, and character in both worlds. My oldest brother is a Ravens fan so seeing bits and pieces of him growing up and hearing the many great things he possesses my focus tuned into his career as I progressed on the gridiron.

Which one of your family members inspires you the most and why?

There’s no specific one! Everyone in my family played a role that inspired me to be in this position and the man I am today. From my parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunties, uncles, cousins, friends, and the next generation of my nieces and nephews. My reasoning is because of the amount of support and love given throughout my life as an athlete they never gave up on me no matter how hard it got and in return I always tried my best to give back by staying humble, excelling as an athlete, and taking care of my duties in the classroom. As for my nieces and nephews they inspire me with the reality of being an uncle to them, it allows me to set an example for them to do great things and teach them ways of life from my perspective.

What is your favorite offensive scheme and why?

Growing up I always loved watching the University of Hawai’i’s “Run & Shoot” playbook it was such a great scheme to see from a spectating perspective. The best part is they always had the right guys for the personnel which gives them the ability to work around it and create big plays. As for the NFL, I was always a fan of the “West Coast” playbook nothing too crazy just a simple quick game that opens the deep ball or long runs. As a TE I love both the run game and getting out on routes I’m not too picky I plan to show my skills on both.

What should we know about Makani Kaneaiakala the person?

Makani Kaneaiakala is the person you’d want to surround yourself with. A gentle giant on the outside but a menace when it’s time to play! The best thing is he always shows great sportsmanship. He’s humble doesn’t say much and is a great leader, he’s always finding ways to get better on and off the field in whatever he desires. He loves his family and respects his teammates and coaches. He loves creativity and being decisive as a player. The list continues, but when you meet him face to face, all of what I said will be the person he is.

What stands out about your film the most?

My ability to be physical and block defenders in open space! As a TE or even as a receiver that’s hard to do with all that field space, a DB, LB, or safety can work with to get around you. But if you take a close look at my film you can see the when I meet the defenders at the point of contact how quickly I’ve erased the space and getting hands on them already.

How do you handle challenges both in life and on the football field?

I handle challenges in life and football by the way I “Respond”!!! “Am I gonna run away or face the problem?”. “Action speaks louder than words” Letting my actions speak has always been the best way for me to handle any challenge and I do it with no fear which makes it tougher for me to crack or fold. I’ve failed before but that helped me become better at what I do in both and a reminder to never go down that path again.

What would a team get in a player like you?

A player who’s willing to put his life and soul into the work of a pro, a player who will ask millions of questions making sure he stays on top of assignments and duties, a player who will give his everything to help the team in any way possible win games and a Lombardi trophy whether if it’s the first one or more. I’m excited! It doesn’t matter what team I’m willing to work with and show the world why I belong at this level.

What do you love the most about the game of football?

The feeling of playing the sport I love in front of the whole nation and world. No better feeling than seeing fans from all over come out to support me and my team. And the chance to channel my aggression without getting arrested for it! It’s a man’s game remember!!!.

Who is the most underrated player you’ve played with and why?

I would say one of my backup QB’s Christopher Walter! Because of the way he carries himself on and off the field it he has a crazy work ethic, is pretty mobile on the legs, has the arm to sling the rock, has a solid IQ, and most importantly a great attitude. He doesn’t let the words “Back-Up” bother him! He instead encourages the starters and is a help in any way. He played a big role in helping me get better as I transitioned to the OUAZ program I’ve always prayed for his time to shine but in the reality of it all he was already shining.

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