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NFL to Honor Molokai, von Oelhoffen

 

Between 1961 and 2010, Molokai High School didn’t have a football team. That didn’t stop 1989 graduate Kimo von Oelhoffen from becoming a pro lineman and winning a Super Bowl.

Thanks to von Oelhoffen, who started at defensive end in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2006 Super Bowl XL victory, Molokai is among 11 Hawaii high schools set to receive special recognition from the National Football League (NFL). In preparation for its 50th Super Bowl, the league plans to present golden footballs to the high schools of all coaches and players who have appeared in the NFL’s premier title game.

“When you look at the list, you have perennial state powerhouse football programs like St. Louis and Punahou … and then you just have little old Molokai right there,” said MHS head football coach Mike Kahale with a grin.

The commemorative golden leather footballs will be inscribed with the school and name of the player or coach. Aside from Molokai, the other 10 schools are all located on Oahu. Punahou and Kahuku top the list, each receiving three footballs.

While it’s an honor for the school and the island, coaches and friends said it’s also a tribute to the defensive lineman’s tireless efforts to get to the professional level.

“It’s just a feel good, inspirational story,” said Kahale. “You have a kid from Molokai that was athletic, had no opportunity to play football, for some reason had a passion for it. After high school [he] pursued it, and look. Super Bowl champion.”

Although the Molokai-born von Oelhoffen played football for Moanalua High School on Oahu in 1985, he returned to MHS the next year and competed in basketball and track.

“He wanted to do well in whatever it was he was doing,” remembered classmate and teammate Matt Helm, who grew up down the street from von Oelhoffen. “When practice was over, that didn’t mean that he was over. He would be in the gym doing a few extra reps when he could.”

Known as “Scooby” to friends, von Oelhoffen took his 6’4” frame to the University of Hawaii, Walla Walla Junior College and finally Boise State University to play football. Despite a string of injuries, in 1994 he was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the sixth round. He later became a stronghold on the Steelers’ defensive line, starting all but two games over six seasons despite his physically taxing position.

Von Oelhoffen, who retired after 14 seasons and one Super Bowl ring, is now a defensive line coach at Western Oregon University.

“He was always smiling and kind to everybody,” said Helm. “… He got exactly what he deserved and he did it in the right way. I’m very proud and happy for him.”

Football was revived on Molokai in 2010 when the Farmers joined the Maui Interscholastic League’s eight-player league. Last year Molokai finished second and will again be championship contenders this season. Athletic Director Lee DeRouin said the school’s golden football honor sends a great message to current and future Farmers.

“That just tells you that even though something is not provided … don’t let it stop you from trying to reach your dreams,” said DeRouin. “… Attend a college or junior college and try out, give it a shot, and you never know where it can lead. And it Kimo’s case it lead him to play at the highest level of competition.”

There are no dates yet scheduled for the presentation of the footballs, as well as no word on whether von Oelhoffen himself will bring the football back to his alma mater.

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