Makana Garrigan living out his second dream

For Casa Grande High School graduate Makana Garrigan, when one dream ended, another began.

In high school he dreamed of playing D1 football, a vision he believed he had made come true by receiving a scholarship to the University of Nevada.

When that dream turned into a nightmare brought about by a shoulder injury that never properly healed, he changed the focus of his dream to coaching college football.

That vision has already taken the 26-year-old from Nevada to Hawaii and now to Maine, where he is set to begin his second season as a full-time assistant coach for the Black Bears.

Although the University of Maine is not well-known in Garrigan’s native Petaluma, it is big time on the East Coast and especially in its home state, where it is the only school that plays Division 1 athletics. In 2018, the football team played in the FCS semifinals.

The Black Bears compete in the Colonial Athletic Association, a league that includes the likes of Rhode Island, Villanova and James Madison.

“Week in and week out it is extremely competitive,” noted Garrigan.

He had no idea at the time, but the road to Maine began in the homecoming game in his senior year in high school, when he suffered what was first diagnosed as a severe stinger (a common injury in contact sport resulting from a nerve injury of the shoulder or neck).

He was, at the time (and still is), one of the best football players ever at Casa Grande. He played four years of varsity football, catching 53 passes for 776 yards and 11 touchdowns. But it was on defense that he really shined, setting school records for tackles and interceptions, making 11 interceptions in one season.

He was recruited by several colleges and, after graduating in 2011, agreed to play at Nevada.

It never happened.

The nerve damage proved more severe than had been initially thought. He tried to ward off the inevitable, spending his first semester of college rehabbing and attending football practices.

But it was no use. He was medically disqualified.

“All of a sudden there was nothing,” Garrigan recalls. “Everything I had worked for was gone.”

For a brief time, he thought about just giving up on the whole college thing and returning to Petaluma to get a job or work for his father in the construction industry.

But Garrigan got some help and advice from family and friends.

His high school coach, Trent Herzog, invited him to help coach the Gauchos; his father, Kimo Garrigan, advised him to stick with college; and Wolf Pack assistant coach Mike Bradeson (since deceased) helped him get a position as a volunteer assistant at Nevada.

“I’ve been fortunate to have guidance and help from a lot of people in my life,” Garrigan said. “A lot of where I am is because of the support I’ve received.”

Once he graduated, he became an official graduate assistant at Nevada while pursuing his master’s degree.

From Nevada, he moved to the University of Hawaii, where he served two years as a graduate assistant while he finished his master’s program and then joined the staff as quality control coach working with the linebackers.

His dream was beginning to take focus in his ancestral home land - his grandmother and father are Hawaiian natives.

“It was a great experience,” he said of his time in Hawaii. “Being of Polynesian descent, I felt like I could really relate to the people.”

Maine came calling with a better offer, so Garrigan stowed away his surfboard and unpacked his parka and became the Black Bears’ running backs coach.

“They had openings on both offense and defense,” said the former linebacker. “I’d always coached on defense, but I thought if I was going to defend other teams, I had better know more about what they were trying to do,” he explained.

Garrigan said he has considered coaching at the high school level, but that doesn’t fit with his dream.

“I thought about it,” he said, “but I want to shoot for the top. I want to coach at the highest level I can reach.”

Garrigan admitted there are differences between playing and coaching, but there are also similarities.

He still enjoys the relationships he forms with the other coaches and with the players, but now he gets his satisfaction from the success of the players.

“I understand how much influence I can have on their educations, their academics and their life in general,” he explained.

He admits he would have loved to have lived out the first dream of playing D1 football, but really has no regrets.

“You can’t live with what ifs,” he said. Garrigan has no time for “what ifs,” he is too busy pursing his dream - even if it is the second dream.

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