by JORDAN IKEDA
Been featuring safety Nick Okano here over the past couple of months and was finally able to get out to one of his games and watch him play last Thursday night as his team, the Harvard-Westlake Wolverines, dismantled Verbum Dei in a shutout.
Nick opened the game with a 20-yard kick return, but rarely had to work outside of that. Due to the suffocating Wolverines defensive line and linebackers, Nick’s defensive savvy was hardly needed as Verbum Dei completed maybe a total of four passes and were mostly forced into three and outs.
But, despite the lack of a highlight reel, the Rafu got a chance to chat with Nick before the game.
Rafu: How’s the ankle?
Nick: The ankle is still hurting. It’s a high ankle sprain, so the doctors said it was going to take 4-6 weeks to heal.
Rafu: Even still, you’ve been having a good season. Tell me a little bit about the offers you received.
Nick: I got my first offer from Columbia in the summer. Air Force offered a little bit later. That was just based on my junior film. Then I went to a bunch of camps this summer. That’s when Princeton offered. Then I visited the Yale campus. They heard about my other three offers and I think that made them want to offer too. And I just got offers from Cornell and Dartmouth last week.
Rafu: Leaning in any particular direction?
Nick: All of the Ivys are about the same. Academics are my number one thing.
Rafu: What do you want to study?
Nick: I want to study business. Like a business man, finances or something. My dad is a banker.
Rafu: Where are you from? The Valley?
Nick: No, I live in Hancock Park.
Rafu: Wow, that’s kind of a long drive.
Nick: It’s about 25 minutes. This is a top academic school. That’s why I came here.
Rafu: I see. So, how’d you get into football?
Nick: In sixth grade, I played my first game of flag football and when I came here, they had flag football in seventh grade. I joined the team and was pretty good at it so I decided to keep playing.
Rafu: Do you have any players you mold your game after?
Nick: Not really, but I do watch a lot of football. I like Haruki Nakamura on the Ravens.
Rafu: Yeah, it’s cool to see elite Japanese American athletes, like Haruki and yourself.
Nick: Yeah, I definitely want to see more Japanese people playing football.
Rafu: What have you done to get to where your at?
Nick: I definitely work hard. In the offseason, I come here on the weekends. Work out with my dad. I’m always doing extra work. Lifting on my own.
Rafu: What about school?
Nick: School is good. I have a 3.92 weighted GPA.
Rafu: Man oh man…Do you have any time for other hobbies?
Nick: Well, it’s mostly just school and football.
Rafu: Nothing wrong with that setup. So, what, thus far, has been your career highlight?
Nick: Last year, we played Cathedral. They’re probably the second best team in our league. We beat them and I had four interceptions.
Rafu: So what’s better then? Big hits or interceptions?
Nick: Interceptions are good, but I like getting the big hit on people.
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Andrew Nakamura is a senior running back/linebacker for Piedmont High School. In his last game against Albany (a 53-3 beatdown), Andrew rushed for 20 yards on four carries and had a touchdown. Piedmont High School has become known for inventing a unique offensive style that is quickly spreading across the nation and has received pub in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Denver Post, Seattle Times, San Francisco Chronicle, ESPN the Magazine, and Coaching Management.
“The A-11 is a brand new offense that utilizes all players on the field to catch the ball,” Andrew told the Rafu Shimpo via Facebook. “The offense comes out of a spread formation that features six receivers, three linemen, and two quarterbacks, or a QB and running back in the backfield. This formation allows us to have many options when throwing the ball and our team is able to utilize the entire field, which spreads out the defense, opening up the weak points in many of our opponents’ defenses.”
For more info on the A-11 offense, visit the Piedmont football website.
As for Andrew, he began playing football his freshman year because he thought it would be fun to play and that it would challenge him to be able to push himself and become a better athlete.
“What I like about football,” he said, “is the feeling of playing under the lights on a friday night, the atmosphere of the stadium and its fans, and being able to be a part of something special that will last for the rest of my life, especially since I scored a touchdown.”
Next year, Andrew plans to head to UC Davis or UC Santa Barbara and study zoology. He enjoys drawing and playing music. His favorite players are Jahvid Best who is the star running back of Cal and the sweetness of HOFer Walter Payton.
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Finally, Jon Kimura of Greenwood High School in Indiana is a senior wide receiver/defensive back. In his last game, he had a pair of tackles, a forced fumble and a 20-yard catch for a touchdown.
Off the field, Jon wants to attend Texas Tech or the University of Hawaii and study to become a dentist. His favorite NFL team is the 49ers and his favorite college team is either Oklahoma or Hawaii.
“I love offense,” he told the Rafu via Facebook. “Don’t know why, but I just love catching the football and running.”