Canton Kaumatule had a tough junior year. When he was on the field he was possibly one of the most dominant football players in the country. But staying on the field wasn't easy for the 6'6", 260-pound defensive end.
"Last year was rough for me," Kaumatule explained. "I struggled to stay on the field and ended up missing a significant amount of the season. Ultimately we won the state championship, which is always the goal, but I was frustrated with myself for not being on the field more.
"This year that won't be a problem. I have spent the last eight months rehabbing and am now a lot smarter about my body. I've focused on my weaknesses and I've strengthened my entire body. I take pride in my stretching and preparation now because I know what can happen if I don't [do those things]."
A healthy Kaumatule doesn't bode well for opposing offenses this season. Last year despite being injured he was nearly impossible to stop when he was on the field. He has a blend of size and athleticism that is dominant over high school competition. When you fuse that with his unrelenting motor, the results become scary.
"I have never been more ready for football than I am this season," Kaumatule claimed. "I am 100% healthy and am eager to get out there and play. There is a lot of energy inside me and when I am on the football field I unleash it. I think my passion for the game is what sets me apart from so many other guys. There are a lot of great football players out there, but at the end of the day my relentlessness is what sets me apart."
Kaumatule will be playing all over the field for Punahou this fall. Most colleges are recruiting him as a defensive end, but he will be showcasing a lot more than that this season.
"I'm more than just a defensive end," Kaumatule said. "I can play nose guard, defensive tackle, obviously defensive end, and I can drop back and play some linebacker as well. We play a 3-4 defense and that setup really allows me to move all over the field. I am actually playing both ways this year. I will be playing offensive tackle this fall, which is great. I started my football career on the offensive line and I'm really fired up to get a chance to do it again."
Kaumatule's skill set could realistically produce a big-time offensive tackle, defensive end, defensive tackle, or even tight end at the next level. The amazing upside of the Punahou big man has drawn the attention of schools from across the country and the rising star is listening to what they all have to say.
"At this point, I wouldn't say I am closed to anyone," Kaumatule claimed. "I am not going to limit my options by naming a top group of schools. Right now my plan is to keep all of my options open and see what happens. Obviously certain schools are standing out to me, but my decision is still pretty far away."
Kaumatule has attempted to plan a few visits but is unsure of anything at this point.
"So far I have set one official visit on November first to Oregon," Kaumatule said. "I was reminded earlier today that we could be in the playoffs during that weekend, so everything is kind of up in the air. I may just wait until after the season is over to take my trips. It would be really cool to see Oregon play Stanford that weekend, but we'll see what happens.
"Outside of Oregon, I am really liking UCLA, Vanderbilt, and USC right now. A lot of people thought I was going to join Luke [Kaumatule, his older brother] at Stanford, and I still may, but I also kind of want to do my own thing. We'll see what happens. It's all about keeping my options open at this point. I've got a lot of great schools recruiting me and I'm trying to weigh the pros and cons."
The recruiting battle for Kaumatule could end up being one of the most intense this year. It is worth noting that he and his teammate (and best friend) Semisi Uluave have singled out a few of the same schools. Uluave is planning to take visits to Oregon, UCLA, and Vanderbilt at some point this fall.
Uluave is in favor of playing four more years with his partner in crime.
"You'd be crazy to think I wouldn't want to play a few more years with this guy," Uluave insisted. "Obviously we have to do what's best for us, but Canton is a good friend and teammate and I'd love to play college ball with him. We'll see what happens, but for the time being it's all about Punahou and winning another championship."
Punahou's season kicks off August 29th against St. Louis High School (Hawaii) and Kaumatule's health is one of the main reasons that Punahou is favored to win another state championship this fall.