Kumoku Noa reintroduced himself to Hawaii football fans in a big way during last Saturday’s win at New Mexico.
In his first game action since 2017, he broke away for a 54-yard touchdown from Cole McDonald in the first quarter, setting the tone in a much-needed 45-31 victory. Noa was not cleared for any other game this season in what was described to Star-Advertiser UH football beat writer Stephen Tsai as “ailments and personal problems.”
The Rainbow Warriors held a 21-3 lead after Noa’s score and led by as much as 35 in the fourth quarter before the Lobos scored three unanswered touchdowns for the game’s final score.
McDonald ⏩ Noa
— Hawaii Football (@HawaiiFootball) October 26, 2019
Noa finished with four receptions for a game-high 120 yards, becoming the sixth UH receiver this season with 100 yards or more in a game. There was no visible rust for the redshirt junior, who saw the game as business as usual.
“I show up every day to do my job — catch the ball, run with the ball, and on Saturday, just handle business and play ball,” he said. “It’s really our coaching staff who holds us to those expectations and standards. If you want to be the best, for us to be the best offense, you just gotta put up points and the numbers. Each and every day, we work for that.”
Noa almost put up a career’s worth of statistics in his lone performance of the season. In 2017, he caught the ball 11 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns.
— Hawaii Football (@HawaiiFootball) November 12, 2017
With five regular-season games left in 2019, Noa is hungry for more. Although he was inactive in the team’s previous seven games for the season, the work was put in beforehand to make Saturday’s breakout performance possible.
“Moku works hard. Even the time when he was off when he wasn’t able to play, he approaches practice the right way. Him having success wasn’t a surprise,” UH receivers coach Andre Allen said. “Tremendous ability, he knows what he’s supposed to be doing out there, pays attention in film and comes out here and executes on the field and in practice.”
The waiting game is nothing new to Noa, who as a senior at Kamehameha didn’t have any active college opportunities until Hawaii came through with a surprise grayshirt offer.
“It was just life. You go through things. I was just patient, just waiting it out because you never know what will pop up or what can happen,” Noa said. “I got a call from UH and they gave me an opportunity to play for them so I was happy.
“Everyone’s good at D-I so you just gotta work every day because you never know when preparation meets opportunity. I wasn’t expecting nothing big for myself, just here to play some football and wait for my number to be called.”
Noa comes from a strong bloodline of college football players with UH ties. His father Henry suited up for the ‘Bows from 1972-1974, as did older brothers Kilinahe (2001-04) and Waikaloa (2006).
Kumoku remembers “growing up around the Timmy Changs and the Colt Brennans” and how it influenced his desire to become a collegiate football player himself someday. But when asked about older brother Kanawai Noa, a 2015 Punahou alumnus and the state’s all-time leading receiving leader, his tone changes. Kanawai still has eligibility left as graduate transfer at Nebraska after spending his first four collegiate seasons at California. In five games played, he’s caught 10 passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns for the Cornhuskers.
“He’s a great player honestly. He deserves to be one of the best to ever come out of Hawaii as an athlete. He’s someone that I always just tried to be better than. If you really knew Kanawai, he’s like perfect in every way if you meet him as a person,” Kumoku said. “I just tried to be like him, be better and just thankful for him to be my older brother. I learned some lessons from him that he taught me for me to be a better person, just a better football player and better receiver.”
Kumoku had a year for the record books himself during his senior year Kamehameha, catching 15 touchdowns for 1,200 yards, which still stands as a school record.
He could theoretically replicate those numbers in a Hawaii jersey, but both he and Allen acknowledged the role of how unselfish receivers must be within the schematics of the team’s run-and-shoot offense.
“I would expect him to do the same things that he’s been doing,” Allen said. “When his number’s called, make plays. When his number’s not called, open things up for the next guy.
“This is an offense that’s built on receivers not being selfish, because what they do opens things up for the guy next to them.”
To that end, Noa is just grateful to be on the field.
“I was never a selfish player so growing up, I just wanted an opportunity at D-I. I didn’t really care about the school or the name,” Noa said. “This is the team that gave me an opportunity so I’m just very thankful for that.”
Having a spot on the field is one thing, but Noa knows performances like Saturday took so much more than a mere presence. In Saturday’s 6 p.m. matchup against Fresno State, he hopes to build on the progress that got him back to contributing to wins.
“I have goals in mind that I have to keep on working for but our goal right now is just to win (against) Fresno State, win out our division this year and that’s what we’re hoping for from working hard, and practice,” Noa said. “This is our job, it’s not a choice. You have to love this job. I just want to be a winner for us, for this team.”