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Mana Carvalho: A Red Raider’s quest to make a name for himself

By: Annaliese Gumboc

Kaimana “Mana” Carvalho grew up in a football-centric family. His father, Stewart, was a player for Kauai High School’s Red Raiders and later for Utah College’s Utes. Following in the family tradition, his older brother, Kainoa “Kaikai,” made a name for himself as a standout receiver with the Kahuku Red Raiders, earning numerous accolades during his school years. Football runs deep in Mana’s family, with many cousins and uncles also deeply involved in the sport. Notably, his uncle Sterling Carvalho leads as the head coach at Kahuku, while his cousin Waika Crawford takes the quarterback position for the Red Raiders. Given this rich football heritage, Mana’s journey in the sport was only natural.

Photo: Lori McKeown

Born in Utah, Mana developed his interest in football in Hawai’i, when he moved to the islands in the second grade. The decision to move was made by his father Stewart, who wanted to raise his family in the Hawaiian culture. “He wanted us to kind of be different from people on the mainland,” said Mana.

On O’ahu, football became an integral part of Mana’s life. He fondly recalls his regular attendance at Kahuku vs. Saint Louis games and closely observing his older cousins’ performances on the field. One cousin in particular, Isaiah Tufaga, a Saint Louis safety, served as a profound source of inspiration for Mana to embrace the sport himself.

At around 8 or 9 years old, Mana joined a Pop Warner team that amusingly shared the same name, the Red Raiders, as he recalls. Although he participated in other sports like basketball and track, his affection for football grew rapidly and became his true passion.

For Mana and his family, the gridiron was everything. Throughout the year, he remained dedicated to the sport, driven by the constant encouragement of his father and uncle, who ensured he stayed committed and never became complacent. The majority of the cherished moments he shared with his father, brother, and other relatives revolved around football practice—it was how their family bonded. 

As he grew older, Mana followed in the footsteps of the relatives who came before him, adopting the role of a wide receiver akin to his brother, Kainoa, and assuming the position of safety reminiscent of his cousin, Isaiah. In the seventh grade, Mana enrolled at Kahuku, a school from which numerous cousins had already graduated. When he secured a spot on the varsity football team as a freshman, Mana discovered himself surrounded by a team comprised largely of family members, among them his older brother Kainoa, who was then a junior.

Mana was grateful to have his brother Kaikai’s familiar face on the team, but as the Red Raiders’ youngest member, he couldn’t help but feel overshadowed by his label as “Kaikai’s younger brother.”

With his family’s esteemed football legacy as a backdrop, Mana faced considerable expectations, and none magnified this challenge more than Kaikai. In Mana’s inaugural year as a Red Raider, Kainoa stood at the forefront of Kahuku’s offense, amassing an impressive 64 receptions, 1029 yards, and 10 touchdown catches. His stellar performance significantly contributed to the team’s flawless 10-0 record and state championship victory. Beyond his role as a wide receiver, Kainoa’s versatility shone as a kick-returner, running back, and place-kicker, culminating in a remarkable 147 total points for Kahuku, as reported by ScoringLive. Kainoa’s remarkable achievements, which included being named Gatorade Hawaii Player of the Year, Marcus Mariota Player of the Year, and All-State Offensive Player of the Year, underscored his invaluable role in Kahuku’s championship success.

Comparatively, Mana spent his freshman year punting and rotating on defense before a collarbone injury sidelined him for six weeks. While many might perceive this injury as a discouraging setback, Mana saw it as a chance to observe and absorb wisdom from the experienced players. “I was still young and new to this high school football thing,” Mana said. “So just learning from our great leaders helped me understand the game and made me feel more confident playing.”

Mana worked tirelessly to improve, watching film and gaining knowledge from Kahuku’s captains. “It helps with understanding how to beat different kinds of coverages or reading different kinds of routes, and it’s easier to play the game from there,” Mana said.

The lessons and newfound confidence had a tangible impact on Mana’s performance. The following season, when Kainoa was hindered by an injury, Mana stepped up for his team. It was Mana who led Kahuku with 61 receptions for 766 yards. This pivotal role made Mana the central offensive force for the championship-bound Red Raiders.

However, Mana isn’t satisfied yet. With Kainoa set to join Utah College, their father’s alma mater, Mana is driven to carve out his own legacy. “It’s time for me to step up even more,” he said. 

Mana envisions a grand future ahead. His aspirations encompass clinching another championship, serving as an inspiration to others, and securing a spot in college and eventually the NFL. “I’m trying to make it to the NFL,” he said, “but just to also have a great football career and have people look back and say that I did great in the sport of football.”

Photo: Lori McKeown

He can’t imagine who he’d be without the sport and hopes to continue playing for the rest of his life. “Football is kind of everything for me, because without football, I don’t know what I could be doing at this time,” Mana said. “I just put so much work into it. I’m gonna hope to get a good benefit out of it.”

While Mana has walked a path similar to his family’s legacy, he acknowledges that his journey won’t lead him to Utah College like his brother and father. No longer content with the label of being “Kaikai’s younger brother”, Mana strives to make a name for himself. He’s determined to stand as Mana Carvalho.