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December 19, 2011
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It was the first time that Honolulu native Ka'Imi Fairbairn had visited the Bay Area in his life, and while the sun was shining on Berkeley this past weekend, the kicker out of Punahou High had to bundle up in a California football jacket as he toured the campus as part of his official visit.
"It was really good fun. The town is really more laid back and I kind of like that. I liked it. The weather was pretty cold, compared to Hawaii," Fairbairn laughed. "It was like, 50 degrees, and I was freezing, but it was pretty nice."
In his senior season, Fairbairn -- who would be brought in as a placekicker -- put 95 percent of his kickoffs into the end zone, and hit 13 of 18 field goal tries, including one from 55 yards -- one yard further than the career long of his player host: senior Giorgio Tavecchio.
"He's a fantastic guy, a super nice guy, and his work ethic, I can tell, from his kicking this year, has really helped him as a person and as a player, so I was very impressed by him," Fairbairn said. "He's a really nice guy."
Tavecchio's Italian hospitality wasn't the only thing that struck Fairbairn about the Bears, who have three players from Hawaii on the roster, along with five more of Tongan or Samoan descent.
"It makes a difference," Fairbairn said. "The people on the team are real important to me, how they carry themselves and having guys from Hawaii makes me that much more closer to home."
Fairbairn also got some one-on-one time with special teams coordinator Jeff Genyk.
"I thought he's going to be a good coach, if I go there," Fairbairn said. "He has a good grasp on the mental game of football and kicking, so that's what he'd do for me, if I went there. He'd help my mental game."
Fairbairn had not seen any facility that matched the sheer size of the Bears' new Student Athlete High Performance Center, which also made a big impression.
"I really liked it. I liked the campus, liked the coaches a lot, but there wasn't a lot of people there because finals had just gotten done, so I couldn't really see the lifestyle. But, from what I saw, from the High Performance Center, it was pretty impressive," Fairbairn said. "Actually, it was still in progress, but it was pretty massive and spectacular. When it's finished, when they have all the weight rooms and all the equipment in there, it'll be that much more exciting, more impressive."
Currently committed to UCLA, Fairbairn will make one more trip to the mainland before making his final decision, which will follow a Jan. 13 official visit to Westwood. He also has interest from Washington and Arizona, as well as an offer from Boise State.
"I'm going to go check out the campus, the players and the new coaches and from that, I'm going to make my decision, basically, either stay with UCLA or switch," Fairbairn said. "If I switched, it would probably be Cal, but I'm still keeping my options open.
"I have to go see UCLA. I've been there for a little bit, but the officials are really going to make the difference. It's going to be hard to make up my mind, but right now, I'm just waiting to go to UCLA and make a decision after that."