For freshman Kagawa, 'a long journey' to Tech

Georgia Tech’s last player to join the 2014 class is perhaps the most intriguing.

Safety Shawn Kagawa made his decision to play for the Yellow Jackets in May, less than a month before he left home in Hawaii to enroll at Tech.

“It has been kind of a long journey for me for these last six months,” Kagawa said. “I’m just very, very blessed for a great opportunity. Not only will I play in a great conference, but I will get a great education at Georgia Tech.”

Kagawa initially attended the U.S. Military Academy’s prep school last year, but left at the end of January 2014. Kagawa said that “the military life wasn’t for me.” That put him back in the recruiting pool, and he signed a letter of intent (along with two others who left the prep school) with SMU in February. However, there were admission issues at SMU for him and the other two players from the prep school that Kagawa doesn’t fully understand, and Kagawa was released again.

“Very uncertain is definitely the word,” Kagawa said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen.”

He came to Tech’s attention through three connections to coach Paul Johnson – former Army coach Rich Ellerson, whom Johnson coached with at Hawaii, former Hawaii coach Bob Wagner, whom Johnson coahed for and who was athletic director at Kagawa’s high school, and SMU coach June Jones, who is connected to Johnson through their tenures at Hawaii.

“(Ellerson) thought Shawn was the best player that they had,” Johnson said in an interview with colleague Michael Carvell. “I said, ‘Do you think he can play on this level?’ He said ‘Oh yes, Paul, he's a really good player.’”

Jones likewise called Johnson to highly recommend him.

“He’s a really nice kid,” Johnson said of Kagawa. “He’s very typical of the kids that I coached over there. He’s very humble. He’s a nice kid. I think he will be a good fit here.”

Kagawa came to Tech for an official visit in late May and committed. Kagawa found Johnson to be different than what he saw on television, calling him “cool” and “down to earth.” The fact that the two shared Hawaii in common helped build a bond, too.

Kagawa, 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, is hoping to play immediately. The base defense, which can use up to three safeties, could increase his odds, and he figures to be someone who could contribute on special teams.

Kagawa is about 4,500 miles from home, but he’s actually close to family. Kagawa, who was raised by his grandparents, has family in Tennessee, including his mother. He believes that already having been away from home for a little more than a semester will aid his adjustment this time around. (He would be wise to not complain around defensive tackle Adam Gotsis, whose home in Australia is more than twice as far away as Kagawa’s.)

And he is something of a pioneer. Tech has not had a freshman signee on the football team at least since 1992. (The volleyball team had a player from Hawaii in 2011.)

“I feel like a travel agent in a way, try and show Hawaii athletes that it’s not only Pac-12 and Big Ten,” he said. “There’s other conferences you can play in.”

Fifth in a series of updates on Tech's freshman class.