Kyeesia “Mika” Makekau, a senior at ‘Iolani School in Honolulu, Hawaii, is soon to become not just the newest kicker for the University of La Verne football team, but the first female football player in team history as well.
Makekau, who started out as a soccer player, was encouraged to play football by her mother.
“It was my first year at ‘Iolani, my mom wanted me to do a summer sport that would help me balance my academic and athletic careers,” Makekau said. “Football was the only sport happening during the summer, so she threw me in there.”
“Her mother always instilled in her kids to give back, and the one way her kids could give back to ‘Iolani School is to play for our athletic teams.” said ‘Iolani School head football coach Wendell Look.
Look, who also coached Makekau’s older brother, was glad to welcome Makekau to the team.
“She was unsure if that’s what she wanted to do or get into,” said Look. “But once she put her mind to it, she really worked at it and tried to do her very best.”
Makekau’s career at ‘Iolani School includes setting the Hawaii state record for the longest field goal kick by a girl in high school at 44 yards.
She was just short of the national record of 48 yards, set by Heidi Garrett in 2004.
One of Makekau’s goals was to play football at the college level. That is when she reached out to La Verne football head coach Chris Krich about playing for the Leopards.
“I emailed the coaches to see if they would be interested in me and sent my highlights,” Makekau said. “Coach Krich emailed me back saying he was interested and would offer me a spot on their roster.”
“We looked at her film and saw that she holds the record for the longest kick in a high school game by a female kicker,” Krich said. “She’s been consistent, an outstanding kicker for her football team.”
To help make Makekau feel more welcome and comfortable about playing at La Verne, Krich called on defensive backs coach and native Hawaiian Devin Carillo to help with the recruiting process.
“It was my goal to find out who exactly Mika was, what she was about, what she was looking for, have a conversation, and then open up that conversation and talk about La Verne,” Carillo said. “Try and see if our cultures and our goals align, and they really do.”
Next step for Makekau was a visit to the La Verne campus.
Makekau had previously visited other campuses in the area, but it was the way La Verne made her feel welcome which led to her decision to become a Leopard.
“They were welcoming, that I was a girl and that it didn’t matter what gender I was. Other colleges were kind of shying away from me because I was a girl,” Makekau said. “So as soon as La Verne was welcoming, I just knew I wanted to go there.”
Krich also said he feels that La Verne provides a great fit for Makekau.
“She could play football anywhere,” said Krich. “But I think the main focus was the ability to come in here and fall in love with the school and see that this was a place that was welcoming for her.”
For Makekau and Krich, the expectation for her in her first season as a Leopard is simply to compete.
“My goals are to create a bond with this new team and all of my teammates,” Makekau said. “I’m not expecting to play or anything, but my goal is just to go out there and prove that I can compete at this next level and try to kick in a game.”
Makekau is still attending ‘Iolani School and is in her fourth year, graduating June 1.
Makekau would be the 15th female player to make a college football roster in the United States.
She plans to major in kinesiology when she comes to La Verne in the fall semester.
Christopher Livingston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In an earlier version of this story, Kyeesia “Mika” Makekau’s name was misspelled. The Campus Times regrets the error.