Aiea High School’s head football coach Wendell Say has a decade over the OIA’s second-longest-tenured boss, Kapolei’s Darren Hernandez.
But his run at Aiea almost never took place.
Back in the ’80s, Say was combing through film, not to review plays, but to reel in bad guys as a federal investigator.
“At one point I really thought about not coaching, because when I got into the federal government, I thought that would be it,” he said.
A little-known fact to his players, Say was once a special agent tasked with digging into white-collar crime in the military.
But his role as defensive backs coach at Aiea had him pondering helping kids full-time.
He eventually left his highly paid, secure federal gig to become a counselor as he continued to coach Na Alii.
In 1992, he was promoted to head coach, and never looked back.
“You just see it in the kids, they want to learn, they want to do their best. That kind of stuff really kept me here,” Say said.