by Tiala Nicely
For Scoring Live’s OIA Division II Defensive Player of the Year Dayton Kaopua-Lee, football is not just a game, it’s a lifestyle. When the field lights go on, the spotlight is on linebacker. Dayton knows his job is get stops and get his offense back on the field.
Before a game, Dayton puts in his earphones and blasts “On my Grind”, the Kahuku Anthem, and “We Ready” by Archie as his pregame ritual. He says that to win, he and his team have to “get amped up, be together, come in with confidence.” Dayton stresses the importance of going into a game with the right mindset because your mind can be your greatest weakness. “You have to go in wanting it more than anything,” he says. It’s easy to see that Dayton doesn’t let the other players get into his head, he does what needs to be accomplished on the field. What’s even more admirable is that he understands that defense wins games. “There has to be someone to stop them and get our offense back in,” he said. Just from watching Dayton play, people can see that he’s comfortable, knows what he needs to do, and is not afraid to step to players who are bigger than him.
Dayton is an impact player, so he’s accountable and doesn’t hold back. People easily assume that Dayton’s position as linebacker simply requires him to tackle who ever has the ball. Dayton has to read the lineman, needs to know whether the ball will be a pass or a run, to know who to tackle, and be able to read the other team’s offensive line. He needs to be quick, he has to get through the other teams players who are protecting the ball.
In order to make plays, Dayton has to work hard. At practice Dayton works on bag drills and foot drills. He listens to his coaches and takes what they have to say and perfects it. He states that he’s grateful for Coach Jacob Barit who shows him how to fix
his mistakes and helps him on defense. Said Assistant Coach Anthony Nery, “He’s the heart and soul of the defense. He has definitely done a great job in taking that leadership role and making sure that the whole defense is on the same page every play.” During practice he learns different reads and works with the defensive line and especially junior Matthan Hatchie because he the one who opens the gap for Dayton to blitz.
When Dayton is not on the field practicing, he’s with his family and friends. He enjoys going to the beach and having down time. While football may seem like everything to Dayton, he explains how important his family,
friends and academics are to him. He appreciates his family and how they are always there for him, cheering him on and his friends for having his back. Dayton says that he has to put academics on the top of his list of priorities because if he doesn’t pass he won’t be able to play, and he knows that in order to have a future he needs to not only perform well on the field, but in school as well. He makes sure to say, “My biggest inspiration is my dad, because he supports me in everything I do.” Nick Lee, Dayton’s father said, “My wife and I couldn’t be any more happier for him especially coming three generations playing football for Waialua: Papa Eric, me, and now Dayton.”
Dayton is not just the kid who beasts it up on the field, he’s funny and constantly cracking jokes. In school, when Dayton wants to share a story about what happened over the weekend, everyone gets ready for a long tale that will end in the whole class laughing. In the hallways everyone around him will be laughing at something he has said or the library will no longer be quiet when Dayton walks in. Yet, when it’s time to suit up Dayton puts the jokes on hold and gets into his zone.
The championship game against Waipahu was the most memorable and important games of Dayton’s life. Before the game he said “I want to make our community proud. I’m ready, I’m gonna crank them.” Before the championship game, his coaches told him, “Give it your all, don’t let this be your last game, we worked hard this whole season.” Dayton kept his parents inspirational words in his head the whole game: “Go all out, play like it’s your last game.” and that’s exactly what Dayton did.
With a wink, Dayton turned to walk away, smiled, and said, “Make sure you put my IG in this article.”