Thomas Kaauwai Kaulukukui

Thomas Kaauwai Kaulukukui was an all-around athlete who played American Football and was also a standout college athlete earning 17 letters in five sports. He was the first University of Hawai’i athlete to earn All-American recognition as a football player in the 1930s.

Grantland Rice, legendary sportswriter dubbed Kaulukukui with the nickname of “Grass Shack”, a strong name since Kaulukukui was only a 5-foot-5, 140-pound, running back. His number, #32 remains the only number to have ever been retired by the Hawai’i football program. A 103-yard kickoff return against UCLA in 1935 is still a school record.

Tommy Kaulukukui was born in Kalihi in 1913. His family moved to the Big Island, and he graduated from Hilo High School in 1932. When he returned to Oahu to go to UH, he became the first in his family of 14 children to attend college.

Kaulukukui became head football coach at UH in 1941 and 1946-1950. His teams posted a record of 34-18-3 He also served as athletic director. For his accomplishments, he was chosen as a charter member of the National Football Hall of Fame Association.

In the 1960s, Kaulukukui was head football coach at Iolani. He was also the driving force in bringing Pop Warner youth football to Hawai’i. He was inducted to the University of Hawai’i Sports Circle of Honor in 1982, the first year the hall of fame honor was established.

Hilo, HI 1933; Kaulukukui (front, 3rd from left) played a baseball game along with Babe Ruth that featured a Big Island all-star team versus the Waiākea Pirates, one of the oldest sports clubs in Hawai’i.