"I'm focused," said Packer, who is completing his second year at UH. "I'm going to make this happen."
Spring training opens on Tuesday, and Packer hopes to earn an expanded role on defense and special teams. His ultimate wish? "Hopefully, I can get a scholarship after this spring," Packer said.
Packer, who was raised on the Big Island, relies on financial aid, student loans and his mother's generosity to pay for tuition and living expenses. Angela Packer is a single mom who teaches at Keeau Middle School during the day and works second — and third — jobs at night and weekends.
"She sacrificed her whole life to help me get an education," Packer said. "She really helps me out. I really want to repay her. I want to get a scholarship so she doesn't have to worry."
Packer said he tries to live frugally. Nearly every meal involves tuna.
"Tuna and rice … tuna and bread … sometimes just tuna right out of the can," Packer said. "I eat a lot of tuna because it's cheap."
He said he bought a moped at an extreme discount from a friend. He said a $3 fill-up can last three weeks.
Last year, head coach Norm Chow implemented a rule that a walk-on needs a minimum grade-point average of 2.5 to remain on the active roster. Packer's cumulative GPA is 3.6.
"You have to sacrifice to play the game I love and go to the school I love," Packer said. "I could have gone to a smaller school (on the mainland). But it's always been my dream to play here. It's a struggle, but you've got to sacrifice now for the bigger things later."