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No matter where he is, Lehiwa Kahana-Travis remembers the stories.

His great-grandfather, John Travis, told son Jay Travis one tale after another about life in Waialua. Working daily at the sugar mill. The family later moved to Wahiawa, and during high school, Jay’s son, Jason, met Kehau Kahana.

Kehau’s family was originally from Laie and Hauula. She was born and raised in Wahiawa.

Nakoa Kahana-Travis knows that chapter pretty well, though he and twin brother Lehiwa weren’t quite around just yet.

“I just know the history of my mom them. They’re all athletes. My mom and dad both went to Leilehua High School. My dad pretty much begged my mom to go out,” Nakoa said.

Lehiwa recounts a few more details.

“I remember my mom telling me, one time my dad asked her out, and since she was into sports, she wasn’t into dating at all. He was a football player. She was All-State in softball and she was into her academics. He was a football player,” Lehiwa said.

Jason Travis is not a quitter.

“The second time he asked her out, she said yes,” Lehiwa said.

Jason Travis joined the Army upon graduation. Kehau attended Hawaii Pacific and studied to become a registered nurse. When Jason returned, he applied for a job at the federal prison. He was in the Hawaii Army National Guard until 2009.

His persistence outweighed his, uh, confidence.

“She hated me in high school. I was kind of a punk. We were friends, but we never went out. I always liked her,” he said. “When I joined the Army, I said, you want to make a bet with me? She asked, ‘What’s the bet?’ I said, 10 years from now at our first high school reunion, if we’re not married to other people, we get married to each other no matter what. I thought she would say, ‘Hell, no!’ But she said, ‘OK.’”

Jason Travis went to boot camp in 1999. His first deployment was 18 months in Iraq. Long-distance relationships are low-percentage equations, but the birth of Kawena, the twins’ older sister, made all the difference.

“She kept them together,” Nakoa said.

When the boys came along, Jason was doubly stoked.

“My dad was happy that they were having both of us. He was thinking that they were going to have one more, but they got a two-for-one,” Nakoa said. “My mom was happy, but it was hard.”

Nakoa was born first — 5 pounds, 15 ounces on the scale. Lehiwa arrived 11 minutes later, tipping the scale at 6 pounds, 3 ounces. Today, as junior playmakers at Mililani, Nakoa, their running back, is 5 feet, 10 inches and 180 pounds. Lehiwa, a slotback, is 5-9, 180.

The twins are fraternal and, like some, they don’t chatter much.

“We don’t really say anything. Whenever we see a funny video, that’s the only time we talk to each other,” Lehiwa said.

They’ve heard all the standard questions.

“Yeah. ‘Which one of you is better at football?’ I don’t even answer the question. I just shrug my shoulders,” Lehiwa said. “‘Which one is taller?’ ‘Who was born first?’”

The brothers can tell when people get them mixed up.

“If they know us well and still ask, ‘Who’s who?,’ we joke around,” Nakoa said.

Nakoa translates to “being brave,” he said.

Lehiwa?

“Lehiwa means good-looking. I was 12 years old. I asked my dad. My first thought was, I was just surprised. I had a lot of compliments about my looks, but I never thought of what my name meant until then, so it started clicking,” Lehiwa said.

Mom says the idea originated with dad, who dug up the name before they knew twins were on the way.

“We talked about if we had a son, we would name him Lehiwa. When they were born, they were ‘Baby A’ and ‘Baby B’ (in the hospital). When they got their first shots, one cried and the other didn’t. So Nakoa was the one who didn’t cry,” Jason Travis said.

Long before high school, the brothers began building an edge. It was Jay who built a weight room in his home, setting the tone and the path for Jason, then grandsons Lehiwa and Nakoa.

“We have our own gym at home, but it was originally my grandpa’s weights. He was a big guy in his prime. Whatever my dad learned was from my grandpa,” Lehiwa said.

The brothers both have maxed at 280 pounds on the bench press, according to dad.

“Not a full squat. I try to make them squat down to the bench and explode,” Jason Travis said. “They can rep 455 pounds almost 10 times.”

He got them started with push-ups and pull-ups during elementary school.

“They were always running around. I didn’t buy them games or electronics,” he said. “I started working out with my dad around seventh to eighth grade. When they started, everything was about technique and proper form, no weights. That’s very important. I didn’t put any weights on them until their eighth-grade year, just some little weights.”

A close family brings celebrations. It also brings heartbreak.

“Back in 2019, my cousin Kanoe (Kea-Kahana) passed away. In 2021, my grandma (Mona Kahana) and my other cousin (Kawehi Kea-Kahana) passed away. It was hard,” Nakoa said. “The memories. The things we used to do. Just being around my grandma, cooking with her. Being around my cousins. Just hanging around them, the energy around them.”

With two busy parents, Lehiwa and Nakoa haven’t settled. When they had an opportunity to join the All-Blacks Crusaders during their middle-school years, making the round trip from Central Oahu to Ewa Beach was a sacrifice their family was happy to make.

ABC coach Frank Lacaden already had a deep, talented team that included future high school standouts Jaron-Keawe Sagapolutele, Tana Togafau-Tavui, Titan Lacaden and many more. Frank Lacaden had seen the twins play for the Wahiawa Mules, a Pop Warner team.

“They were basically the whole team. Quarterback, running back, wide receiver, safety, linebacker. They were playing everything. When we moved over to Big Boyz, they came over and made the trip every day to Ewa Beach,” Lacaden recalled. “They knew they were going to be behind guys. They plugged away and became a big part of our organization.”

Lacaden counts his blessings when parents are diligent.

“Great parents, great kids. They’re super talented and work hard every day. They never complain. Good attitudes, very coachable like a coach’s dream,” Lacaden said.

“What I didn’t realize is how fast they could pick up things. Their football IQ impressed me. They’ve been weight training and physically advanced for their age, and they’ve always been athletic. We always practiced hard and they never shied away from work, never shied away from contact either. They had to fight for their positions when they came to us. They hung in there and their parents understood the growth of what they had to do. They both ended up being stars on our team. You don’t see that as much these days. It’s not as common anymore.”

Though the pandemic denied their team a chance to win a national title, ABC went to the Pylon tournament in Las Vegas one summer.

“They’d never been off the rock. They were away from their parents, walking around and seeing that the world is actually bigger than Hawaii,” Lacaden said. “Their eyes lighting up, enjoying the atmosphere. I got to share that with them.”

The quiet nature of the twins, at least during business hours, caught Mililani coach Rod York by surprise.

“Those two are hard workers. We see them on the field and they’re real twitchy, real quick and tough. Durable and they fight through pain. They don’t ever talk. You won’t know if they’re hurt or not. The trainers will tell me if they have an injury,” York said. “They’re great kids, work hard, great grades. And there’s two of them.”

Lehiwa Kahana-Travis has a complete skill set as a slotback.

“Lehiwa is always getting the bubble screens, quick routes, one-on-one with the safety, and he’s a great blocker. Nakoa is a beast in the backfield. I always say we need to give him the ball more. He’s always a few yards short of 100,” York noted. “They work hard. When they’re not lifting with us, they lift with their dad. They look like bodybuilders.”

The day the twins set foot on the field at John Kauinana Stadium is etched in York’s memory.

“I thought they were going to Leilehua. Their dad is from a diehard Wahiawa family. They showed up at our field. They got GEs (geographic exceptions) to get in. They’ve been two great people and the family is very supportive. We love those two guys,” York said.

There’s something about work that puts the brothers into a different mode.

“I try to keep it humble. Strictly business, and let my actions do the work,” Nakoa said.

“My mom says hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. What we do in the classroom is just as important as what we do on the field,” Lehiwa said.

Kehau Kahana-Travis always kept academics her priority and expects the same from her keiki. Lehiwa has a 3.5 grade-point average. Nakoa has a 3.3.

“I think a lot of their work ethic, they get from mommy. She was always the driven one,” Jason Travis said. “If she wanted something done, she’d get it done. In school, she had excellent grades. OIA West Player of the Year (in softball). Played volleyball. I played a lot of sports, too, but it came easy for me and I was the lazy one. That was a regret I had. I didn’t pursue education the way I should have. That’s why I push them hard off the field. What you do off the field makes you better on it.”

Mililani is ranked No. 2 in the Star-Advertiser Football Top 10. Since a season-opening loss to Punahou, the Trojans have been utterly dominant during a nine-game win streak. Last year’s young squad has matured significantly. The depth at receiver and running back means fresh legs are always rotating onto the field. There is little to no dropoff and Mililani has difference-making contributors at all times.

“The ball’s meant to go to the open guy,” York said.

Nakoa Kahana-Tracis has rushed for 636 yards and eight TDs, averaging 9.5 yards per carry.

“Left to right, my O-line is Jon McFall, Myah Ma‘afala, Blaze Manley, AJ Eves and Koda Aumavae,” Nakoa said. “I love them. I have to give the credit to all of them, all my runs. I couldn’t ask for a better O-line than this.”

Lehiwa Kahana-Travis has 11 receptions for 194 yards and two TDs.

Quarterback Kini McMillan, a junior, has having a highly productive, yet efficient season in the pocket. McMillan also keeps the offensive unit loose.

“He’s my funniest teammate. On the field, he jokes about other people,” Nakoa said.

“He jokes all the time,” Lehiwa said. “Twenty-four-seven.”

The Trojans are averaging 51.9 points per game offensively. Up next: No. 3 Campbell in the semifinal round of the OIA Open Division playoffs. A win would propel Mililani into the league final and secure an automatic berth in the state tournament. It would also validate all the work by a unified force.

“I don’t think most people understand what we do off the field. All the hard work we do off the field translates on the field,” Lehiwa said. “I feel good heading into the playoffs. Everybody’s been working hard. Although we started off slow with the Punahou game, everybody’s started to bond like brothers. We’re like a family now. We’re ready to take off.”

Nakoa also places value on the team’s chemistry and trust.

“The bond that we have. People wouldn’t know the relationships we have, what’s going on besides football. I feel like we have the team. This is the team, this year. I feel confident in my team that we could win it all. We just have to stick to the game plan and execute.”

In the end, mom is as proud as she is demanding.

“Just the people that they are. They’re both good kids,” she said. “They’re really humble and good kids.”

LEHIWA KAHANA-TRAVIS

Mililani football • 5-10, 180 • Junior

>> Top 3 movies/shows 1. “A Bronx Tale” 2. “North Shore” 3. “Hacksaw Ridge” “I’ve seen ‘Bronx Tale’ over 10 times. Sometimes with my family, sometimes by myself. It gives vibes of how it was back then, what it was like without phones and electronics like it is nowadays.”

>> Top 3 food/snacks/drinks 1. Sprite 2. Steak (Zippy’s Wahiawa) 3. French toast (Zippy’s Wahiawa)

>> Top 3 homemade foods 1. Dad’s steak 2. Dad’s hamburger patties 3. Mom’s lasagna “My mom (Kehau Kahana-Travis) makes it once in a great while, like once a month. My dad (Jason Travis) makes it once a week. I can make the steak and the hamburger patties, but not the lasagna.”

>> Top 3 music artists (and your favorite song by each) 1. Natural Vibrations — “Green Harvest” 2. Pohaku — “Just a Little Love” 3. Fiji Blue — “Butterflies”

>> Favorite class: Weight training

>> Favorite teacher: Miss Shimamura, sixth grade, Wahiawa Middle School. “Just the way she would teach, she would teach basic life skills that you need.”

>> Favorite athlete: Bo Jackson

>> Favorite team: Las Vegas Raiders

>> Funniest teammate: Kini McMillian. “He jokes all the time, 24-7.”

>> Smartest teammate: Kaden Anzaldo. “He’s the one who’s helping everyone with their homework. He’s a junior.”

>> GPA: 3.5. “In my opinion, it would be higher if I didn’t play sports. We would have more time. I don’t really play video games. The only thing I do in my off time is work out.”

>> Time machine: “I would go to the 1960s. My great-grandpa (John Travis) used to tell my grandpa (Jay Travis) stories. I would want to be there to witness those stories. My great-grandpa used to work at a sugar mill, the one in Waialua. That’s where my grandpa is originally from.”

>> Hidden talent: Drawing. “I’m pretty good at it. I draw tribals. Usually, I go from the top of my head. My cousin (Bransen) is a tattoo artist. I tattooed part of my dad’s arm. I drew a letter.”

>> New life skill: Driving. “My dad teaches me. I have a license already.”

>> Bucket list: Bodyboard at Kelly Slater’s wave pool. Meet Nick Bosa. “I think it’s in California. I think it’s $100 an hour. Nick Bosa is a dog on the field. Meeting Bo Jackson would be great, too.”

>> Youth sports: Tee ball. “I was 5 years old when I played tee ball. I did wrestling when I was 6 years old. I played one year of soccer when I was 8. When I was 9, that’s when I started playing football. Pearl City Chargers Pop Warner. Then I started playing basketball, going back and forth with football. I played for this team called Wahiawa Mules. All-Blacks Crusaders. I never played for Millvill (Trojans) until high school.”

>> If you could go back in time, what would you tell you younger self? “I would just tell my younger self don’t rush to become an adult. Being an adult is the hardest stage in your life. It’s best to enjoy your younger days because you’re never going to get it back.”

>> Shoutouts: “My mom, my dad, my cousins and grandparents. Thank you for being there for me every step of the way. I wouldn’t be where I’m at today without you.”

NAKOA KAHANA-TRAVIS

Mililani football • 5-11, 180 • Junior

>> Top 3 movies/shows 1. “A Bronx Tale” 2. “Stand By Me” 3. “North Shore” “I’ve seen ‘Bronx Tale’ at least 10-plus times. It’s like a gangster type of movie, a young kid rebelling against his parents and being raised pretty much by mobsters. It teaches life lessons.”

>> Top 3 food/snacks/drinks 1. Rib-eye steak, Outback Steakhouse (Waipio) 2. Chicken alfredo, Olive Garden (Kapolei) 3. Capri Sun, strawberry kiwi

>> Top 3 homemade foods 1. Banana cream pie 2. Mom’s stir fry 3. Mom’s homemade chili. “My mom used to make banana cream pie all the time, so I learned from her. I was like 13 when I made my first one. Sometimes I make the crust. I cut up the banana and overlay it with whipped cream and then the chocolate on top. I get the canned filling. I make it once a month or on special occasions.”

>> Top 3 music artists (and your favorite song by each) 1. Gregory Isaacs – “My Only Lover” 2. Bitty McLean – “Games” 3. Lil Baby – “California Breeze”

>> Favorite class: Physical education, fifth grade, Kaala Elementary School

Favorite teacher: Mrs. (Shannon) Marxen, Culinary Arts, Mililani High School.

“She’s my auntie, not by blood, but through marriage. She makes it fun. It’s culinary class and I like cooking.”

>> Favorite athlete: Bo Jackson

>> Favorite team: Las Vegas Raiders

>> Funniest teammate: Kini McMillan. “Out of the blue, outside of football, if there were people coming up to talk to us, he would make random jokes. On the field, he would joke about other people.”

>> Smartest teammate: Luke Vanantwerp. “He’s a 4.0 student. Whenever I need help in school, I ask him for help. He’s ahead of his class.”

>> GPA: 3.3

>> Time machine: “I would travel to Antarctica on its coldest day. Enjoy its scenery and just do random, fun activities.”

>> Hidden talent: Cooking. “Only when I need to cook. I wouldn’t take it very seriously. I would only do it just ’cause.”

>> New life skill: Being creative. “Building things that I need, stuff that’s fun to do. Like in wood shop, I like building chairs, tables. I like doing the basic stuff.”

>> Bucket list: “Attend a Raiders game. Meet Bo Jackson. Visit the most haunted place, probably the Warren Occult Museum. Growing up, I used to watch horror movies a lot because my auntie (Savannah Travis) used to watch it. My sister (Kawena) is scared of horror movies, but she likes to watch it.”

Youth sports: (See Lehiwa’s youth sports.)

>> If you could go back in time, what would you tell you younger self? “Stop worrying about what haters think about you. Use it as motivation to keep pushing in all aspects of life.”

>> Shoutouts: “My mom and dad. My papa, my grandma. My siblings.”

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