football Edit

Kahanu Kia Breaks Down His Notre Dame Commitment

Honolulu Punahou class of 2021 linebacker Kahanu Kia never announced a top schools list as most prospects do, but it was pretty clear that he was down to Notre Dame, Stanford, UCLA and Utah. And to narrow it down further, Notre Dame and Utah were the programs to beat.

Utah would’ve been the “safer” choice. His dad played there, has family in the state and is an easier trip to make from Hawaii. However, the 6-2, 205-pounder told the Notre Dame staff on Tuesday that he’d be choosing the Fighting Irish.

“At the end of the day, I had to look at the big picture,” Kia told “I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get a Notre Dame education and play football for them. I love the culture of the program; I will fit in there. It’s an opportunity I can’t pass up.”

Sign up for today and get a FREE $75 Nike gift card

Honolulu Punahou linebacker and Notre Dame commit Kahanu Kia
Kia’s visit to South Bend earlier this month was vital to his commitment.

Kia spoke with Irish recruiting coordinator Brian Polian, head coach Brian Kelly, defensive coordinator Clark Lea and defensive analyst Nick Lezynski to inform them of his pledge.

“Coach Polian was super excited; we’re all just so excited,” Kia added. “I built a great relationship with them, and to be continuing on this Notre Dame path is amazing.”

Kia’s conversation with Kelly was a memorable one.

“It was cool. I mean shoot, it’s Coach Kelly,” he said. “It was cool to talk to him and hear his voice. As soon as I was done talking to him, I saw him on TV on The Herd. That was pretty crazy.”

There are no typical recruiting visits this year due to the NCAA’s dead period, but Kia felt like he needed to see Notre Dame in person before coming to a decision. He did so the weekend the Irish knocked off Clemson, and that experience on campus played a major role in him choosing Notre Dame.

“It was awesome,” Kia said. “That weekend they beat Clemson, but even if they would’ve lost, I really felt comfortable on the campus. I can learn there and I can totally see myself there. The visit definitely played a huge part. I didn’t know what to think of South Bend and how far it is, but being out there, it felt like home.”

Kia’s parents loved Notre Dame, too, and are supportive of his choice to take the far-from-home plunge.

“They 100 percent support me; they’re excited,” Kia added. “I decided this with them. I didn’t just tell them what I was going to do. We had a lot of conversations about it. It wasn’t an easy decision; I felt comfortable with Utah and I felt like I was going to go there for the longest time. But after that trip and talking to the other commits, I felt like it was the place I needed to be at. It’s not going to be easy, but I’m super excited and I can’t wait.”

Again, Kia’s father, Nate, played for the Utes in the mid-90s, and Utah was the team to beat for quite some time. When did things shift in Notre Dame’s favor?

“When we did the first virtual visit a week or so after I got offered by them,” Kia answered. “When I got offered by Notre Dame, I thought it was crazy, but I didn’t actually think I’d actually make the jump. But after the visit and getting to know Coach Lea and Coach Lezynski and why they’re recruiting me, I really bought in.”

Kia will enroll at Notre Dame during the summer of 2021. His plan is to spend one year at Notre Dame before embarking on a two-year Mormon mission trip. It’s important to Kia to be a part of the Irish family a year before he takes his trip.

Kia is Notre Dame’s 22nd commitment of the 2021 class, which ranks No. 10 in the country.



• Learn more about our print and digital publication, Blue & Gold Illustrated.

• Watch our videos and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

• Sign up for Blue & Gold's news alerts and daily newsletter.

Subscribe to our podcast on Apple Podcasts.

• Follow us on Twitter: @BGINews, @BGI_LouSomogyi, @Rivals_Singer, @PatrickEngel_, @MasonPlummer_ and @AndrewMentock.

• Like us on Facebook.