WAILUKU - Ceejay Santos grew up dreaming of playing for the University of Hawaii football team.
In 13 days, the 2011 Baldwin High School graduate will take the first step toward that end as he attends classes in Manoa for the first time.
"I'm very excited, I can't wait to be there," Santos said Saturday after a night at his summer job as a grounds worker at Maehara Stadium for Na Koa Ikaika Maui. "That's where I want to be, it is closer to home. I just have very positive vibes about it."
Santos, The Maui News Maui Interscholastic League Utility Football Player of the Year in 2010 - the only time that award has ever been handed out - earned a scholarship and played as a freshman at Weber State last year.
After a senior season at Baldwin in which he was 8-for-8 on field goals - four of them 50 yards or longer, including an MIL-record 53-yarder - Santos was the kickoff man for the Wildcats. He had eight touchbacks in 50 kickoffs and averaged 63 yards per boot in nine games.
Now, after two coaching changes and no field-goal attempts in his single year in Utah, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Santos is paying for school at UH and sitting out a year as he waits for his chance after transferring.
"I'm kind of bummed, but I look at it as another year of experience for me just being a kicker and just getting better in my ability to try to be the best player I can be," he said. "I have been working out, lifting in the mornings with Dustin Cabico and kicking with (former St. Anthony kicker) Thomas Cortez."
Santos has also trained at the Maui Grappling Academy.
"The jiujitsu, the grappling, it has been very helpful," he said. "My flexibility is much better - flexibility and hips are key for a kicker. I'm the strongest I have ever been."
Santos was more than a kicker at Baldwin - he had 15 catches, four of them for touchdowns, and returned kickoffs, including a 99-yarder for a score against San Clemente, Calif., as a senior. He was also a first-team MIL All-Star outfielder for the league-champion baseball team.
Santos' only scholarship offer out of high school was from Weber State, under then-coach Ron McBride. Following a 3-6 season, McBride was forced to step down and John L. Smith was hired. Smith then left for Arkansas in the wake of the Bobby Petrino scandal.
"I was kind of sad that I was leaving at the end, but it really wasn't the right place for me," Santos said. "I need to be where my mind was straight, so I can fully focus on school and what I need to do."
Smith - a former coach at Idaho, Utah State, Louisville and Michigan State - has a background in special teams and was in charge of spring drills at Weber State.
"It was serious business, 5 o'clock in the morning, he made sure everything was done," Santos said of Smith. "It was a great experience just to be playing for him, even Ron McBride. It was very sad to see him go because he took care of the Hawaii boys."
Santos felt he should have been Weber State's field-goal kicker, but said he learned what college football is all about from both coaching staffs.
"I know I need to be more consistent," he said. "Be consistent, don't miss, that's it. The other guy we had, he was not bad, but I thought it should have been me (kicking field goals), but that's just me. You have to be confident."
Santos said he will be studying exactly what it takes to be the starter for UH in 2013 as he watches from the sidelines this season.
"I'm just going to go in there like a sponge and learn everything I can," he said.
Santos' grandparents Susan and Alvin Inouye, and mother, Wendy Inouye - his biggest influences - will be able to attend UH games.
Santos said Warriors coach Norm Chow has told him a scholarship awaits the team's starting placekicker.
"It has been a goal of mine since I was little," Santos said. "Coach Chow has been great to me, he has always welcomed me with open arms. I am very grateful that he has given me this opportunity. Hopefully, I don't let him down. They said, 'If you're the starter, scholly.' That is my goal right now, to be the starter."
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com