Are you going to be in Hawaii for the upcoming college football season?

If so, you’ll start noticing those subtle changes around the community when University of Hawaii memorabilia begins popping up all over the place, and the dynamics starts shifting toward a slightly sportier one. Little by little, hundreds of Hawaii fans dust off their green-and-black fan gear in preparation for an all new season with an all new coaching staff. But one thing will be missing; that spunky “Warrior” mascot decked out in body paint and ti leaves who riles up Hawaii fans with those wide-eyed expressions and enthusiastic sideline drumming.

Vili the (unofficial) “Warrior” mascot recently announced his retirement from Hawaii sidelines to spend more time with his family. He had been with the university for the past 12 years, spotlighted during game telecasts and interviewed on ESPN. Simply put, he had become the face of the Warriors and helped to raise the profile of UH’s football program over the past decade.

I’ve been to many football games as a kid and then as a student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Everyone loves Vili! The fans, the cheerleaders, the band and the football team all know to look for that wild-haired warrior jumping up and down the field. Many would say he’s expected to be there, but the truth is, he didn’t have to be there at all. Vili had been doing it free of charge for more than a decade, sacrificing his time with his wife and four children to be the driving factor of UH’s athletic support system. Now that’s what you call the Aloha Spirit! To give and not to expect something in return; of course, he also accrued a fan following and perhaps attained some celeb status, but I honestly don’t think that’s what motivated him. He, like many Hawaii fans, wanted to see their home team win. And if that meant putting on a costume and riling up the stadium and team, then he’d be the one to do it!

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