Injured Hawaii football player gets much needed motivation in Denver

University of Hawaii football player Kalepo Naotala broke his neck in a diving accident this summer. He made the trip from the islands to Denver in July to continue his treatment and rehab at Craig Hospital. Two months later now and the freshman got some

He is not supposed to be here.

For a couple of months, here, has been home for young man nicknamed “Lepo”.

Unfortunately, here, is Craig Hospital. University of Hawaii freshman broke his neck in a diving accident this summer. He made the trip from the islands to Denver in July to continue his treatment and rehab.

"The plan for his life hasn't changed. The situation may have changed," Kalepo’s father Tony Naotala said.

An injury like the one Lepo suffered will do that. Although he is surrounded by immediate family it's his football family he's missed, until Thursday morning.

The Rainbow Warriors football team plays at Wyoming on Saturday, which made a stop in Denver possible.

“It's always good to see them in person,” Lepo said. “But it's hard to be away from them."

"It's just a good feeling. We know Kalepo is all the way out here in Denver and we can't see him physically, it's just a treat to be out here and spend time with him and we're just enjoying this time right now,” Hawaii senior David Manoa said.

"For me it's a great feeling, just seeing him smile, just watching his teammates look at him and him look back and the look in his eyes was priceless," Tony said.

The team came with a gift. One they're wearing as well. A beanie with Naotala's number on it and the slogan "back and better."

"When he was first in the hospital and he couldn't speak, he had an alphabet grid and that's what he spelled out: back and better," Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich said.

"I couldn't wait to get one,” Lepo said. “I didn't know if they had one for me. It's cool they still care and love for me."

This was the first chance many of the players got to see their teammate since his accident in July. Unfortunately, Lepo couldn’t make the trip to Laramie to watch the game on Saturday but the guys left him with some motivation to get back and better. His teammates performed the Haka outside of the hospital.

"Hopefully that will rekindle something in him, about what he said and he can live up to what he said. Because he still has a long road to go," Tony said.

For a few moments this week, his teammates made here exactly where Lepo is supposed to be.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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