One of the most coveted items in college football is a jersey with a single number.
Anyone that watches college football knows that a player that wears a single-digit jersey is probably one of the top players on the team.
Multiple programs across the country have devised their own methods on how to distribute and select which players get the honor to don these special jerseys.
In a similar fashion, the Hilo Vikings football team have established the No. 6 jersey as a number of prestige, starting with this season.
However, instead of being a jersey number that celebrates an individual, the No. 6 jersey is known as "The Viking," which represents all the past, present and future Vikings that come through the Hilo football program.
The honor of wearing No. 6 will be something that changes from week to week. In the days leading up to their next football game, Hilo coach Kaeo Drummondo and his staff will select a different player that possesses good character and represents the school's motto of "once a Viking always a Viking."
"The greatest thing we can install into our football players is life skills that is empowered by good character and cultural heritage," said Drummondo. "In fact, the word ‘Hilo' means to twist together, and No. 6 represents that twisting or working together as a ohana. There is a strong sense of ohana in our program with our booster parents, coaches, players and Hilo community."
Drummond added that the idea also coincides with the team's mission statement of WE>me.
"It means that no one person is bigger than the team (and) we work as one unit and ohana," said Drummondo.
Assistant and equipment manager Kahu Zeke Tomaselli first brought the idea for the No. 6 jersey to Drummondo, and it was something that he and the rest of the coaching staff and players saw value in.
"Going back to the (team mission) statement, this was a collective collaboration of coaches and players that got together in meetings like our weekly character classes, and had time to dream big together for the future of our program," Drummondo said.
So why No. 6?
For starters, Hilo High was established in 1906. The word Viking is also an acronym that stands for six characteristic traits that the Hilo coaching staff instills into their players. Those six traits are: victory, inspiration, knowledge, innovation, nobility and generosity.
Six also represents the amount of points for a touchdown, which is symbolic of the Hilo coaching staff wanting their players to score on and off the field.
"We believe this is rooted in excellent character, for that changes individuals, homes, communities, cities and ultimately the world," said Drummondo. "It's our desire to see our players user their education, passion, skill and traits to better themselves and society."
Senior Kaleo Apao wore the first No. 6 jersey of the season in the Vikings' lone non-league game against Iolani on Aug. 12. Drummondo said Apao was selected because of his great leadership ability.
"There's a lot of people who lead by example, however, Kaleo takes it a step further and also leads vocally," said Drummondo. "As a teenager, it can be intimidating to lead other teens vocally because they are at the same point in life. Kaeo sees the importance of why being vocal in leadership is critical to seeing a team succeed, especially when the goal is to make history and be the first neighbor island team to win a Division I championship. Also, when there is an issue within the program, Kaleo and a few other senior leaders would step up and address it. That's a win for us coaches."
Running back Kahale Huddleston, who normally wears No. 22, will be the next to wear the No. 6 jersey for the Vikings. Huddleston had a record-setting day in the team's 62-35 win over the Raiders, accounting for six total scores and 454 all-purpose yards. Huddleston's performance factored into his selection, but it ultimately was his work ethic that earned him the honor.
"He simply does things the right way, every time," Drummondo said of Huddleston. "He constantly stays after practice to run extra sprints and is slowly bringing others along to join him, which in turn strengthens the entire program because those things can become contagious.
"He embodies the attitude that we look for in our players, never complains, always gives good effort and is an all-around good young man. We're confident he'll represent the Viking jersey with pride and class."
Hilo fans can see the No. 6 jersey in action Saturday afternoon when the Vikings travel to Hawaii Prep in both teams' Big Island Interscholastic Federation regular season opener.
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