September 15, 2003 - by
From Walk-On To Family Physician, Kaleikini Takes Road Less Traveled

Sept. 15, 2003

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.-For thrill seeker, biochemistry student and senior wideout Joey Kaleikini, taking the medical college admission test (MCAT) recently was just the first step of his next big adventure – to become a family physician serving low-income families.

The eight-and-a-half hour test, which Kaleikini said was every bit as hard as two-a-day practices, was not part of his original college plans. Then again, neither was being the holder for field goals and points after touchdowns (PATs).

Kaleikini began his life at FSU as a physics major on full academic scholarship from Niceville, Fla., and a walk-on wide receiver to the 1999 national championship football team.

“Originally, I was studying physics because I wanted to be an astronaut,” said Kaleikini, whose father is a career chief master sergeant in the U.S. Air Force.

What changed his mind and his life’s direction were stints volunteering in the emergency room of Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare and at one of its satellite walk-in clinics serving migrant farm workers in nearby Quincy, Fla.

“I really enjoyed helping all these families,” he said. “They really needed a lot of immunizations because they are getting sick easy when they come here.”

The same dependability that Kaleikini displayed in the E.R. and walk-in clinic is what caught his coaches’ attention as a freshman walk-on. It’s also why he’s earned a place as a receiver, one of the most vaunted and storied positions at FSU.

As a guy who just wants to help in any way he can, being the holder and back-up receiver is reward enough for the hard road from walk-on to scholarship player.

“Just the chance to play for Coach (Bobby) Bowden, and to be able to learn all the things he has to teach us, has made it worth it,” he said.

Being the holder, as Kaleikini puts it, is one of those “trust” positions.

“The coaches put me in this position because they know I’ll be there and will get my assignment done. My job is to stay out of the headlines. I’m OK with that. Nobody’s supposed to know the holder’s name,” he said.

The 22-year-old Kaleikini will graduate this spring with a 3.2 GPA and has applied to three medical schools, with the FSU College of Medicine being his first choice.

“I want to open my own family practice or join a general practice in a low-income area,” he said. “That’s the whole focus of FSU’s med school. They want to help people who might not get help otherwise. They want to train doctors to go into neighborhoods where health care is not available.”

As for Kaleikini’s probability of success, just ask Prof. Mark Riley, the associate chairman of the physics department.

“I was very impressed with his work ethic, especially during football season given the intense practice and game schedule that he must have been under,” said Riley, who taught Kaleikini three physics courses (twice during football season).

“I read that Bobby Bowden had real faith in Joey on the football field, and I have to say, in the arena of academics, having taught Joey, I have great confidence in his abilities too.”

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