June 22, 2012

Kamana's future matures with another year

Tim Kamana will arrive at West Point as an 18-year-old plebe football player, after all.

The Honolulu Punahou safety, who doesn't turn 18 until Aug. 16th after fall camp opens, is enrolling at the USMA Prep School this fall instead of West Point as a direct admit. In other words, Kamana will still be only 18 when the Black Knights' 2013 fall camp opens.

"It was my choice," Kamana said. "It's a chance for me to get a year back. It's a chance for me to get bigger, stronger and faster. I'm excited about it."

The prep school year -- which equals the standard practice of a redshirt season at civilian college football programs around the nation -- provides his body a chance to catch up to his fellow Class of 2012 recruits. Many students with a birthday so close to the start of the school year are held back, but Kamana began school young and remained several months younger than his classmates throughout his academic and athletic careers.

A year ago Kamana weighed 175 pounds when Punahou opened preseason practice and he was still only 16. He's put on 10 pounds since football season ended -- "I've been lifting weights and pounding the protein shakes," he said -- and thus plans to play at 185 this fall at the prep school.

From 185, you can do the math. Weighing 190 pounds is realistic by the time he arrives at West Point in 2013 and he could be playing at 200-plus when he's a senior in 2016.

In addition to the weight gain, Kamana said he's working on defensive back footwork techniques with his father, Carter Kamana, who was a Michigan State defensive back in the early 1980s.

"I'm trying to put on weight but keep my speed at the same time," he said.

Kamana said his father traveled with him on his official visit to West Point and they asked head coach Rich Ellerson about spending a year at the prep school. However, Ellerson and defensive coordinator Payam Saadat, who holds the chip of Hawaii as recruiting turf, told them with Kamana's academic record and potential to play as a freshman he was being recruited as a direct admit.

At the same Kamana was pondering Army's offer, other schools were telling him he could redshirt. He had scholarship offers from Wyoming and Weber State, while Michigan State wanted him as a preferred walk-on.

A greyshirt was another option for someone as young as Kamana. As a greyshirt he wouldn't enroll until January 2013, meaning he would have five years to play four beginning in the fall of 2013.

Kamana weighed the pros and cons of West Point as a direct admit vs. a redshirt at another school and decided Army was still his best choice. He was a late commit on Feb 13, but things changed as the calendar flipped toward summer.
"I was told about a month ago I might have a choice and I would know soon," Kamana said. "Coach Saadat was out here recruiting some players for next year. He met with my family for dinner and we talked about it. He said there were some cuts and if I went to the prep school, another (non-football) cadet could get in to West Point this year. It was win-win."

But the change of directions also put Kamana on a roller-coaster of adrenaline pumping through him.

"I was set to go to West Point and wanted to get on the field," Kamana said. "I was focused. But I'm glad I'm going to the prep school. It gives me a chance to learn the program and the defense in addition to getting bigger. I'll be that much further ahead and still have four years eligibility remaining."

His plebe year in 2013 will include a homecoming game when Army plays Nov. 30 that season at Hawaii.

"That's big," Kamana said. "I was excited when they told me about the schedule on my recruiting trip. I have friends playing at Hawaii and my whole family will be able to see me play.

"The majority of my family won't have a chance to see me play (on the mainland), so it will be real big to me to have my whole family at the game. That's going to drive me to get on the field my freshman year."

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