Before Nebraska (Punahou HS/Cal)
Kanawai Noa joined the Huskers in the summer of 2019 as a graduate transfer from Cal. Noa had a productive career with the Bears despite battling injuries. In four seasons at Cal, Noa appeared in 35 games with 16 starts, catching 96 passes for 1,267 yards and six touchdowns.
Noa made seven catches for 76 yards as a true freshman in 2015, and he also returned four kickoffs for 94 yards and four punts for 15 yards. An injury limited Noa to just three games as a sophomore in 2016, and he was granted a medical redshirt, preserving a season of eligibility. In limited action as a sophomore, Noa made three catches for 34 yards. He bounced back from the injury in a big way in 2017, setting career highs with 56 catches for 788 yards and four touchdowns. Noa averaged 14.1 yards per reception and 71.6 yards per game in 2017, ranking sixth in the Pac-12 and 50th in the country in receiving yards per game. In 2018, Noa dealt with injuries and played in eight games, recording 30 catches for 369 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Noa was on the watch list for the Biletnikoff Award as both a sophomore (2017) and junior (2018), and he was also on the watch list for the Polynesian College Football Player of the Year both seasons.
Before attending Cal, Noa was a standout wide receiver at Punahou High School in Honolulu, Hawaii. He caught 146 passes in his high school career for 3,195 yards and 34 touchdowns. As a senior, Noa caught 53 passes for 1,072 yards. He had 51 receptions for 1,145 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior after posting 42 receptions for 978 yards and 15 touchdowns as a sophomore. Noa helped Punahou to great success during his career, including three trips to the state finals. Punahou went 8-1 and was the state runner-up in Noa's senior season. As a junior, Noa was the most valuable offensive player for a state champion Punahou team that finished with an 11-0 record, a No. 1 ranking in Hawaii and a No. 17 ranking nationally. Noa also helped Punahou to a runner-up finish as a sophomore. He was a two-time all-state selection and was the All-Interscholastic League of Honolulu Offensive Player of the Year as a senior.
Out of high school, Noa was regarded as a three-star recruit. He was a consensus pick as one of the top 10 players in Hawaii, and the 247Sports Composite rankings tabbed him as one of the nation's top 100 receiving prospects, while Scout regarded him as the top receiver in Hawaii.