News Article Details

Warriors DB writing own script to success

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - 3/17/2017

March 17--University of Hawaii football player Kayson Smith-Bejgrowicz's life appears to be lifted from a Disney script.

He is an engineering major who volunteers with Special Olympics, feeds the homeless, cleans beaches and describes his 60-year-old grandmother as his "best friend." His father, Kawika Smith, a former track standout at Damien Memorial School, used to work at Disneyland.

Most remarkable is Smith-Bejgrowicz's ascension from a student who did not play organized sports the past two years to a promising cornerback for the Rainbow Warriors.

"He's doing great," defensive secondary coach Abraham Elimimian said. "He's an attentive student-athlete. He's very in tune with things we're trying to teach him. One of his best attributes is his positive attitude. He's trying to do things the right way."

Smith-Bejgrowicz initially wanted to follow the path of his idol, Olympic decathlon champion Bryan Clay. As a Kamehameha Schools senior in 2015, Smith-Bejgrowicz won the high jump (6 feet, 6 inches) and triple jump (46-1.5) at the state track and field championships. He placed second in the long jump (22-5.75). Smith-Bejgrowicz planned to enroll at Clay's alma mater until learning Azusa Pacific did not offer a program fully focused on his interest in civil and environmental engineering.

With his family relocated to the mainland, he instead decided to remain in Hawaii and take care of his grandmother, Viola Flores.

"We're buddies," he said. "We're teammates. She supported me a lot through things, and I support her in things she's got going."

Smith-Bejgrowicz enrolled at UH in August 2015. He also worked at an athletic-shoe store and as a paddleboard instructor for a Waikiki hotel. After adjusting to his academic schedule -- he is taking calculus, physics and two engineering courses this semester -- he pondered joining a UH sports team.

"My family and friends urged me to get back out there," said Smith-Bejgrowicz, who also played basketball and football at Kamehameha. "Because of that pride and seeing that H (logo) around, and knowing that we play for that, we play for the people of Hawaii, I wanted to continue that in any possible way."

He said friends helped him train at the Warrior Recreation Center in the heart of the UH campus. Last month, he received an invitation to join the Warriors after doing well during a walk-on tryout.

"He comes from a basketball background," said Elimimian, listing why Smith-Bejgrowicz fits as a corner. "I think basketball players are pretty cerebral. They understand spacing. They understand concepts. And they understand moving parts fast. Because he comes from a basketball background, he's able to do that."

Elimimian has worked on Smith-Bejgrowicz's footwork, such as shuffling instead of bouncing to move laterally. "The good thing about him is this is his first year," Elimimian said. "Another thing he can do for us is play special teams. He can find a role there because he can run."

In Saturday's scrimmage, Smith-Bejgrowicz raced in for a sack. As always, Flores offered the most encouragement to her grandson.

"She's my best friend," Smith-Bejgrowicz said. "She loves me to death, always has, since the day I was born. She supports me. She's a real soft-spoken lady, but if things need to get done, they get done. She always makes sure they happen."

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(c)2017 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

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