Nov. 24 – A year ago, the University of Hawaii football team, led by then-head coach Todd Graham, faced a moral collapse.
A year ago, the University of Hawaii football team, led by then-head coach Todd Graham, faced a moral collapse.
Top quarterbacks Chevan Cordeiro and Brayden Schager watched the situation from the front row. At the end of the 2021 season, Cordeiro, a two-time captain who was born and raised in Hawaii, entered the transfer portal and eventually signed with San Jose State. Schager, who grew up in the Dallas area, chose to remain a rainbow warrior.
Their paths will cross on Saturday when San Jose State hosts Hawaii at CEFCU Stadium. Cordeiro is now co-captain of the Spartans. Schager is the Rainbow Warriors’ #1 quarterback.
Cordeiro acknowledged what he perceived as a morale-debilitating “toxic” atmosphere under Graham last year. Cordeiro’s departure led to more player departures, a state Senate hearing on the welfare of the football program, and eventually Graham’s resignation. Timmy Chang, a record-breaking former UH quarterback, was hired as Graham’s replacement in January.
“Leaving, I just wanted to change something,” Cordeiro said. “Now my teammates in Hawaii love soccer. I love soccer again. Everyone who switched (from UH) is having fun.
Cordeiro recalled the struggles of his fourth – and final – season with the Warriors. Television footage caught Cordeiro and Bo Graham, then offensive coordinator, often arguing on the sidelines.
“Last year it was hard to wake up and go to training,” said Cordeiro. “I didn’t have a smile on my face. And now, I mean, I love showing up to practice and watching movies with (offensive coordinator Kevin) McGiven and (football analyst) Lyle (Moevao), coach (Brent) Brennan. I just hang out with the team in the dressing room.”
Cordeiro said his former UH teammates understand why he gave up his co-captain for the transfer.
“We still have that bond,” Cordeiro said. “They are still my brothers. I fought with them for four years. It was agony. We went through difficult times. Now there is light at the end of the tunnel. They are happy. I am happy. I can’t wait, To see you.”
Cordeiro often mentored Schager, who was an 18-year-old freshman in the 2021 season. “I had known all season that he would probably leave (after this season),” said Schager. “But he’s always been great to me. He always supported me. I learned a lot from him. I really appreciate it.”
Schager said he never considered leaving. “I always wanted to stay here and be a part of it,” he said. “Being in Hawaii and being a part of it is really special.”
Schager said Chang’s hiring validates his stance.
“When coach Timmy was signed, it was a big cultural change, it was a change for the better,” said Schager. “I think we’ve really started to embrace Hawaiian culture more. I’ve learned a lot about it since I’ve been here. I’ve grown close with a lot of guys from here. That was great.”
Cordeiro believed that Schager was destined to be his successor.
“I knew he would be the guy,” Cordeiro said. “I know he was kind of struggling too last year just with the whole situation and just the toxic vibes from everyone. I knew if he made it through he would be QB1. He’s a good guy. He is a good friend . he works hard And he has talent. He’s getting better game by game.”
Cordeiro said he “grew as a person” after moving to the Bay Area. “I just leveled my game,” he said. “I watch more movies. I spend more time in the movie room. … I’m just a movie fanatic and I’m just learning the game.”
SJSU running back Kairee Robinson said that when Cordeiro came along, “he opened up to us. We brought him in and treated him like he was one of our brothers.”
Cordeiro acknowledged the surreal feeling of facing his former group of brothers.
“They are my boys,” Cordeiro said of the Warriors, “but we won’t be boys in the game. After that we will hug. They are still my brothers for life.”