Ex-UH QB and popular dentist always had a 'nice word for everyone'

Jun. 7—Friends and former teammates remembered Dr. Alex Kaloi as a two-sport star at Leilehua High, a starting quarterback for the University of Hawaii football team, and a popular dentist who built a successful practice in Waianae.

He also married his high school sweetheart.

"Alex was a great guy," Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said of Kaloi, 67, who died of a heart attack on Sunday evening. "He was a smart guy. He was personable."

Kaloi, a lifelong Wahiawa resident, honed his athletic skills at Schofield Gym and Fred Wright Park.

"We all kind of grew up together," said Paul Dombroski, a Leilehua and UH teammate who went on to play six NFL seasons. "And we all inspired each other. I was one of those guys who had a little bit of talent. I relied on some skill. When I saw how hard he worked, it was extremely inspirational."

In the early 1970s, Hugh Yoshida took over as Leilehua's football coach, melding a team drawn from a school that was a mix of Hawaii-reared students and military dependents. "The football program started to grow," Dombroski said, "and Alex was the centerpiece."

Rick Wagner said his best friend (and Leilehua and UH teammate) was a "Baker Mayfield type for his time" because of his dual-threat quarterback skills.

Kaloi was named The Honolulu Advertiser's 1972 Back of the Year. He was the starting point guard on the Leilehua basketball team that won the 1973 state championship.

"He always guarded the other team's best player," Wagner said. "He was a tremendous defensive player. He was a nose-to-nose kind of guy. He set the team's culture."

Blangiardi, who was a UH assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at the time, made a pitch to sign Kaloi. Kaloi redshirted as a freshman in 1973. In 1974, new head coach Larry Price installed the Hula T, an option-based offense. Kaloi won the starting quarterback's job over June Jones, the future UH head coach.

"Alex was one of the great high school players in the state of Hawaii," Jones said. "Rick (Wagner) was the Cole Beasley, and Alex knew it. Alex could throw a football, and Rick could catch it. Alex was a real good, smart, accurate passer. If he had been 6-foot-4, he probably would have played in the NFL."

Kaloi, who was 5-10, played three seasons for the Warriors. His 32-yard scoring run on the third play jump-started the Warriors to a 28-16 upset of Rutgers in 1974. In the 1975 opener against Texas A&I — the first UH game at Aloha Stadium — Kaloi suffered a season-ending neck injury. He retired from football, earned a bachelor's degree, and then enrolled at Indiana University School of Dentistry.

"He embodied everything that was good about recruiting local athletes to the University of Hawaii football program," Blangiardi said. "He was proud to play at home. He was competitive. He was talented. He was a great team player."

Former UH center David Mutter said: "Just a good teammate, a good guy. He had a nice word for everyone, always had a smile on his face. He was a technician. He worked really hard."

Kaloi opened his practice in Waianae, often "forgetting" to charge low-income patients. He would fish at Pokai Bay, then hand his catch to people in need of a meal.

"He had the right heart," Jones said. "He always loved that side of the island."

"He was a Wahiawa boy his whole life," Dombroski said, noting Kaloi chose to work in Waianae because "he had a heart for the Hawaiian people. ... Leilehua and Waianae were always big rivals back in the day. He ended up working on a lot of ex-Waianae football players and their families. He became really close to that community."

Kaloi is survived by his wife Jan, and their three daughters.