Hawaii’s homecoming game this weekend might mean a little more than homecoming games in the past.
Saturday’s matchup against San Jose State will see two former members of the program not just take the field against their former team, but return to where they grew up.
Chevan Cordeiro’s success for both the Rainbow Warriors and the Spartans is well-known. Last week, the sixth-year senior broke the record for the most touchdowns responsible for in Mountain West history:
Most of that damage was done during his time on the island, where he established himself as one of the best QBs in program history. He sits in UH’s record books at fifth in all-time passing yards and sixth in all-time passing touchdowns. Even though he’s unsure what exact emotions will come when he returns to where it all started, or the memories it’ll bring, he knows he can’t let it have an impact on the game.
“I don’t really know yet what’s going to happen or how I’m going to feel because I haven’t stepped on the island yet,” Cordeiro told the media this week. “I’ve talked to Coach (Brent) Brennan and he harped on worrying about the coaching and focusing on the game plan.
“And let all of the outside noise … just ignore it.”
Spartans kicker Kyler Halvorsen had a similar thing to say about his trip back to the Pacific.
“I don’t really know how I’m going to feel,” Halvorsen said.
The junior spent the previous two seasons as Hawaii’s kicker where he ranked ninth in the FBS in kickoff average his freshman year and 15th his sophomore season. Halvorsen didn’t have the opportunity to kick field goals or extra points during his time with UH, however, which was a key factor in his decision to transfer.
“Ultimately that was the main emphasis of me transferring, was being able to kick field goals and score points,” said Halvorsen, who is 6-for-9 on FGs and 34-for-35 on PATs this year. “Given the opportunity to come here and do that was just part of God’s plan.”
There were a handful of other programs that Halvorsen considered after he entered the transfer portal, but he chose SJSU because of the coaching staff and familiar surroundings.
“San Jose stood out to me because of the coaches. Coach Brennan and (Special Teams Coordinator Scott White), they’re very knowledgeable and the environment they bring reminds me of home,” Halvorsen said. “They truly care about their players, and with (Cordeiro) being here, it helped me transition.”
Aside from Cordeiro and Halvorsen, there are three other players on the roster from Hawaii— junior Quincy Likio, redshirt freshman Laakea Kapoi, and freshman Kamaehu Kopa-Kaawalauole.
Playing alongside guys who have taken similar paths has also made the adjustment easier for Halvorsen.
“Being so far away from home … it’s knowing that I’m not alone and that I’m not the only one that’s ventured away from the rock trying to figure out this life,” he said. “I see little glimpses of my life back home with (Cordeiro) here and a couple of other Hawaii boys, too.”
Halvorsen and Cordeiro will be playing against former teammates and guys they’ve grown up with. Halvorsen said he’s still in group chats with some of the Rainbow Warriors players and there has been a little bit of smack talk going on.
The kicker also said he’ll have about 30 family and friends that will be in attendance at Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex on Saturday night, including a ton of people who haven’t had the opportunity to watch him in person as often as they used to.
Like Halvorsen, Cordeiro said he’ll embrace the opportunity to play in front of so many family and friends that he hasn’t been able to do since transferring. And for the QB — unless the Spartans make the Hawaii Bowl, which is a possibility — it’ll be his last chance to play in his home state.
But it’s still all business.
“Before the first snap I’m going to take it in, take in the moment being where I used to be before, playing in front of all my family; not just my parents or my brothers or my close family that could travel (to San Jose),” Cordeiro said. “I know when the first snap happens I can lock in and do my job. I know that I can get that done and I know I have to do that to help my team.”
Cordeiro and the Spartans offense have been locked in the past two weeks. They’ve scored a combined 94 points in wins over New Mexico and Utah State and have rushed for a total of 553 yards in those contests.
“We found our identity,” Cordeiro said. “And it all has to do with the o-line. They’re working their butts off, they’re grinding every day and they’re bringing a different type of energy every practice.”
Cordeiro is one of many players from the island of O’ahu who are making big-time impacts for programs across the country. This includes some notable QBs in Oklahoma’s Dillon Gabriel, Maryland’s Taulia Tagovailoa, and Arizona’s Jayden de Laura.
It says a lot about the quality of football that is being played in the state.
“I feel like (players from Hawaii) are overlooked … We just have that underdog mentality,” Cordeiro said. “And I feel like that’s what motivates us and makes us different.”