When Kena Heffernan says that sports saved his life, he means that literally. Midway through his freshman year, Heffernan was in a car accident and was thrown more than 20 feet. He was told that his neck strength – due to years of playing sports – may have prevented a broken neck.
“When I woke up, I was in the hospital. They were calling me Roger, and I said, ‘That’s not my name,’” said Heffernan, whose full name is Roger Kaikena Heffernan Jr. “They thought I had brain damage because I couldn’t recognize my own name.”
Heffernan, who vowed to never take practicing and playing sports for granted, went on to win state wrestling titles in his junior and senior years. He was also the state pole-vaulting champion and was a three-time ILH All Star in football. He swept Punahou’s year-ending athlete-of-the-year awards all four years. He went on to play football at Yale University for four years.
“The rest of my career, even now, I don’t ever want to be outworked by anyone else, and I don’t want to take for granted the abilities that are given to us,” said Heffernan, the current U.S. National Sumo Champion, who has more than 40 sumo titles to his name.
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