By JOHN DE GROOTE
Stephens Media Hawaii
Kealakehe graduate and former BIIF defensive player of the year Kyler O’Halloran is heading to San Diego State this fall as an invited walk-on with the football program.
“I’m blessed with this opportunity to play Division I football,” O’Halloran said. “I visited San Diego state last spring and got to meet the coaches. I really like it there because it felt like home.”
Coming off a stellar junior season, where he won defensive player of the year honors, O’Halloran led Kealakehe’s stingy defense with 127 tackles. He also tacked on nine tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and two interceptions during his senior campaign.
O’Halloran was named Kealakehe’s defensive MVP last season and was also one of only six varsity players in the 3.5 GPA and above club.
“He’s the ideal inside linebacker prototype,” Kealakehe head coach Sam Papalii said. “Kyler is great inside the box from tackle to tackle, and he’s also got great instinct. If he can continue to improve he will have a very bright future.”
Despite interest and scholarship offers from smaller Division II and junior colleges, picking the Aztecs was an easy decision for O’Halloran.
“Smaller schools gave me attention, but I have always wanted to play Division I football,” O’Halloran said. “It was an easy choice to follow my dream.”
San Diego State is a member of the Mountain West Conference and is coming off a strong 9-4 season. The Aztecs have played in bowl games the last three seasons, winning two of those contests.
“Nowadays, just to be invited to be a walk-on at a Division I school is a tremendous opportunity,” Papalii said. “As an invited walk-on you’re right there on that bubble. Initially, he will come on as someone who can give the team depth and play on the scout team, but eventually he will have the opportunity to be a productive, starting player.”
Papalii thinks his former defensive stud has a chance to make an impact at the next level, but will have to embrace the new environment a Division I program provides.
“I think the main thing he has to do is adopt the Division I strength and conditioning program and live in the weight room,” Papalii said. “If he can improve his explosiveness it will help him get off blocks of 300-plus pound linemen and be able to close in on quick Division I ball carriers. If he can do that, he has all of the other intangibles that he can become a productive player for the school in the future. “
O’Halloran is the third member of Kealakehe’s BIIF-winning team to play at the Division I level. Manase Hungalu and David Fangupo received scholarships to play at Oregon State and the University of Hawaii, respectively.