There can’t be many recruits who have overcome as much as Hawaii’s newest commit has.
In February of 2000, Nick Rolovich, now the new head coach of Hawaii Warriors, was fresh off of leading City College of San Francisco to a National Championship and en route to transfer to Hawaii. Across the Bay Area, Mike “Dream” Francisco, a graffiti writer known worldwide for his work, was murdered in West Oakland - the victim of an armed robbery.
“Dream” left behind his one-year old son Akil Francisco.
Life didn’t get any easier for Akil. At 10 years old he lost his mother too, who died of cancer.
A strong support team of his uncle, John Francisco, and his grandmother, Irene Francisco-Ancheta, took in the young Akil.
“My uncle made a promise to my mom that he would get me to this point, that he would get me to college,” Akil Francisco said.
But in 2010, his grandmother, too, was diagnosed with cancer and given one year to live. Astonishingly, she defied doctors’ expectations and survived just long enough to see her grandson reach his aspiration in recent weeks.
On June 20, Francisco was offered his first FBS scholarship by Hawaii.
On June 24, he accepted that offer.
On June 28, his grandmother passed away.
“(The scholarship offer) kind of happened at the right moment,” Francisco said. “When they gave me that call, I was able to let (my grandmother) know that I got the offer and I have this chance of going to college for free and she wouldn’t have to pay for anything.
“Once I told her, I felt like she had some relief off her shoulders knowing that I would go to college for free and she wouldn’t have to pay for anything.”
It has been a tough series of events for both Akil and his uncle John, but neither ever strayed from goals. For John - getting Akil to college and preserving “Dream’s” legacy. For Akil - his dream of playing college football, which has been documented since he was as young as 14 years of age.
“Me committing was one of the ways I could pay my uncle back for all the hard work he has put in these years to make sure I’m on the right path,” Francisco said. “Basically raising me from the hard upbringing I’ve had of my parents both passing. And to just do it for my parents, I know they would be proud of me.”
Akil Francisco has dreamt of playing college football for several years and Hawaii has always been one of the landing spots he had hoped for. One reason may be that his cousin attended UH. In fact, Francisco was able to unofficially visit to Hawaii this past May to watch his cousin graduate.
Francisco entered this spring as an under-the-radar recruit, but after making some noise at offseason camps and competitions he gained interest from Hawaii, California, Colorado State and Sacramento State.
Hawaii was the first school to offer, and remains his only offer to date.
“UH is the only D-I school that has shown me a lot of love and support from day one,” Francisco said. “I felt me coming in there would be a great move, not only for my athletic career but my academics as well.
“I think (the visits) benefited me a lot. Just building relationships with the staff there, getting myself comfortable with the facilities and the campus as well. It benefited me as well to get my face shown there and let them know I have huge interest in their school, huge interest of wanting to continue my athletic and academic careers there.”
Hawaii’s Bay Area recruiter, Kefense Hynson is Francisco’s primary recruiter, assisted by Rolovich and defensive backs coach Abe Elimimian. Francisco is a 6-foot-1 cornerback who stands out with his coverage abilities and knack for hawking passes.
“I can play man, I can play off, I can play zone,” Francisco said. “Anything the coaches want me to play, I can play. I take coaching well, so I just feel like I’d thrive out there under Coach Abe and all them there.
“When I get to Hawaii, it’s a new beginning and a chance to get better.”
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