Director of Food Services
Brigham Young University, Hawaii
Born In: Provo, Utah
Lives In: Laie, Hawaii
Married to Tanya, has
four daughters: Lei, 30, Kehau, 28, Leni, 27, Ui, 25.
Growing up in Utah, rather than New York or Los Angeles, one would think it would be difficult to get hooked on meeting famous people. But David Keala, director of food services for 2,500-student Brigham Young University, Hawaii got his first autograph from L.A. Rams quarterback Roman Gabriel when he was 10 years old and he’s been on the hunt for autographs ever since. He now has more than 1,000 autographs from athletes and other celebrities.
“When I was growing up my father gave me my first opportunity to meet a professional athlete. My father was a high school football coach. He took me to meet Roman Gabriel, who was an NFL quarterback who played for the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles and he was also in a few movies and TV shows.
I started really collecting when I worked at BYU-Provo. I worked there for about 12 years. In that time I had the chance to meet a lot of great athletes when they came to Utah or came to the school. I would also meet them when I was on family vacations. During that time, I met and got autographs from such greats as BYU’s great football coach LaVell Edwards. I also met a lot of great athletes that came through school here such as Steve Young, Ty Detmer and Chad Lewis. I got to know them and their coaches and it was a wonderful time for me to get to know people individually.
I love athletes, so most of my autographs are from athletes. But I’ve also met a lot of movie stars. Many of them like to come to Hawaii on vacation so I go out to meet them. I’ve met people like Samuel L. Jackson and Craig T. Nelson when they were here for vacation or golf tournaments. If a celebrity is here on vacation, I have friends and family who work at hotels who will call if someone is staying there because they know my passion. They’ll say ‘so and so is on the golf course’ or ‘they’re going horseback riding.’ The celebrities have always been very nice.
One of my favorite autographs I’ve collected is John Wooden, who was a UCLA basketball coach who won 10 national championships. I wrote a letter to him and sent him a picture for him to sign. He sent the picture back signed, along with six other items he autographed. It was really nice of him. Another favorite is soccer player Brandi Chastain. About two years ago, she was doing a tournament in California so I sent her the Sports Illustrated with her on the cover after winning the World Cup, along with a letter explaining that I’d like her to sign it and I gave her like five questions to fill out. I often send questions with my autograph requests. Questions such as, ‘What was his/her most memorable game and why?’ Brandi sent it back and all the questions were answered. That’s been the fun thing—learning more about these people.
One funny incident was my daughter and I were at an NFL Pro Bowl practice and Peyton Manning walked out onto the field. Out of 400 people he signed maybe seven autographs. My youngest daughter, Ui, and I were at the end so I stuck my ball and my pen out and my daughter, who collects as well, stuck her ball out, but she couldn’t find her pen. He came by and took my pen and signed her ball, gave her my pen, didn’t sign my ball and walked off.
I think I enjoy this because I get to meet these people who we see as very special individuals. They are special, but they are also like the rest of us. They are down to earth, have a great sense of humor and enjoy seeing other people succeed. They are always willing to help and share experiences.”