Senior Night Coming: UNM’s Jang Knows the Meaning of “Mahalo”

UNM’s Radson Jang is shown during Tuesday’s training session. (Chancey Bush / Journal)

Hawaii travelers quickly learn the word “mahalo,” which is commonly and correctly translated as “thank you.”

But just as aloha means far more than hello/goodbye to native Hawaiians, mahalo is also a state of mind—gratitude for blessings received.

Radson Jang, a sixth-year University of New Mexico offensive lineman/tight end, is Mahalo personified.

“Words cannot express how grateful I am to have been here and experienced what I experienced,” Jang, a Hawaii native who will play his final home game against San Diego State on Friday, said in an interview this week .

“…There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for this team.”

He’s already accomplished a lot – far more than his relatively thin on-field résumé, 21 games played, seven started since arriving in 2017, would suggest.

“Commitment, leadership,” UNM head coach Danny Gonzales said of Jang’s contribution to his program. “He was one of those guys you want to build around.”

Jang’s journey from his home on Oahu to his second home in Albuquerque, stopping in West Point, New York, took about eight years.

Jang, now 26, is not just a Lobo senior; he is the older Lobo.

“(His teammates) listen to him,” Gonzales said. “You’ve seen all the things he’s been through in his life.

“…He took advantage of the opportunities he had and the guys understand that and respect that.”

Fascinating Fact: At Kamehameha School on Oahu, Jang played against St. Louis School quarterback Tua Tagovailoa when Jang was a junior and a senior. Tagovailoa, now in his third year with the Miami Dolphins at 24, was a freshman and sophomore at the time.

“He just diced us,” Jang recalled. “He was the next level.”

The Kamehameha school system integrates Hawaiian history, culture and language into its curriculum. There, Jang’s education began in kindergarten and culminated in his Abitur in 2014.

“I am forever grateful to this school,” he said. “Someday I will try to give back to this school everything they have done for me.”

At Kamehameha, Jang was an all-state offensive lineman. He decided to attend the US Military Academy and play for the army. After spending a year at Army Prep School, he returned to West Point for training in the summer of 2016 before entering the academy as a cadet.

After four weeks of training, he was told he had failed a drug test. Nine weeks later he was generally discharged and sent home.

“I want to say that I thought I knew what I was getting myself into,” he said. “But I was young, immature, not disciplined enough to get through there and I paid the price for it.”

Back home on Oahu, he worked construction for about six months. But his family and friends wouldn’t let him give up his dream of playing Division I college football.

“By the grace of God,” he said, “after the University of New Mexico reached out to some schools, they got back to me and said they liked my highlight tape and that they wanted me to come visit.”

Just before the 2017 preseason camp began, then-UNM coach Bob Davie offered a full scholarship in the presence of Jang and his parents.

“I’ll never forget that,” Jang said. “My parents started crying. I started to cry.”

Since that lucky day, things haven’t always gone the way Jang did.

In 2019, he suffered a season-ending patella tear against Wyoming. In 2020 his father passed away. Gonzales sent him home to be with his family and he wasn’t with the team during the COVID-ravaged season in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Last season, he suffered a grisly broken leg in the season finale against Utah State. Aggie’s trainer Blake Anderson, a man just as deeply religious as Jang, knelt over the fallen Lobo and prayed.

On Friday, Jang will play his last home game for a team that won 15-50 during his time at UNM. At the start of Friday’s game, the Lobos 2022 are 8-2, 6-0 in the Mountain West Conference.

It’s not that he doesn’t care about winning, he said; he does deeply. It’s just that he cares more about everything he’s been given.

Mahalo is also about giving back.

“If there’s an opportunity to give more,” he said, “I’d love to do that. I would even like to do it. I want to see (the Lobos) succeed. … I know we are drawing near. I just feel it.”

A communications major with a psychology minor who is due to graduate next month, Jang said he is unsure of what lies ahead.

Gonzales wants him to stay and keep giving.

“He’s the parishioner,” Gonzales said, “that we have to stay here in Albuquerque and be one of us.”