Football player suffers serious spinal injury diving off Waikiki, career likely over

University of Hawaii football player Kalepo Naotala suffered a serious spinal injury after diving off a wall in Waikiki on Saturday, July 1.

Doctors say the freshman defensive lineman’s football career is likely over, according to sources.

The 19-year-old Virginia Beach native was jumping off the iconic Kapahulu Groin, also known as Waikiki Walls, when he dove head-first into shallow waters and hit his head on the ocean floor.

Naotala was treated and transported to the hospital in serious condition just after 2:30 p.m., where he underwent surgery.

Sources told KHON2 Monday that he suffered a spinal injury, but did not comment on his long-term prognosis beyond football.

For the first time since the accident, the Rainbow Warriors held a team meeting Monday evening. Head coach Nick Rolovich said Naotala made an incredible impact on the team in a short time.

“Any idea I get of community service, I text the team, and he’s been to three or four of them since he got here,” Rolovich said. “So he’s been almost the six-month poster child of ‘living aloha’ and ‘playing Warrior.’ He has bought in. Right now, it’s prayers and thoughts for Lepo and the family. As far as the team, right now, this is going to affect us one way or another. Either we come together and be pushed forward because of it, and that’s what I think this team will do.”

Naotala, who participated in spring training camp, was projected to compete for playing time on the defensive line this fall.

Now, the university is in the process of setting up financial support for the family.

Counseling for the team is being made available as they start training camp on July 26.

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