Kanawai Noa

Kanawai Noa earned his first touchdown as a Husker with this acrobatic catch against Northern Illinois.

LINCOLN — There’s nothing quite like Hawaii cool.

There’s California cool, which the Nebraska defense is infused with via its swag-dripping defensive backs. There’s Nebraska nice, which the walk-ons and interior linemen provide to help create a welcoming locker room.

But Hawaii cool? It chills everyone out.

“A lot of receivers are kind of flamboyant, flashy,” offensive coordinator Troy Walters said.

Not Kanawai Noa.

Unlike Stanley Morgan, Noa isn’t showy. Unlike Wan’Dale Robinson, he’s not bursting with confidence with each answer he gives about his game.

Noa’s different. Private. A flowing-haired, married, understated, change of pace for a Nebraska offense finding its footing.

“Kanawai’s one of my favorite kids,” Scott Frost said after the Northern Illinois game. “It’s hard to get him to say anything, but he’s a grown-up. He’s a pro about how he comes to work every day.”

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For two games, Noa was nowhere to be found. Nebraska receivers had 14 catches, 13 of them by JD Spielman or Robinson. Frost called Noa’s absence an anomaly.

On Saturday against Northern Illinois, the California transfer and native of Honolulu showed up. Three catches for 51 yards, including a 27-yarder in the end zone just before halftime.

Martinez threw a 50-50 ball at the end of a two-minute drill toward Noa.

“We knew they were playing that overlap with that corner, so going in Adrian already was keying in on it,” Noa said. “All I did was run a vertical, to be honest.”

He went up then tapped his left foot inside the white line, but the referee ruled it out of bounds. Noa’s only other “catch” entering the game was called out of bounds in the end zone against South Alabama. This time, he watched the replay on the jumbotron and insisted Nebraska take another look.

The call was reversed. On the sideline, Frost and Martinez fist-pumped.

“It had definitely been stagnant for me, but being able to touch the ball and make something happen is a great feeling,” Noa said.

NU quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco said this week that he talks with Martinez often about developing a relationship with his receivers, but doesn’t think there’s one he prefers over the others.

But there’s clearly a connection between Noa and Martinez, two of the quieter offensive playmakers.

“He deserves it. He’s a great guy,” Martinez said of that touchdown catch. “And he’s been supportive of me. Every play, even last year coming off to the sideline. ... I think it’s tough for a lot of people to understand just how much those guys mean to me. Noa’s always been there. Ups and downs and — in short — just really happy for him.”

Walters said some of the first reports he got out of summer workouts were about how well Martinez and Noa were jelling. He’s not sure they hang out much outside of football, but that could be because Martinez, the sophomore, heads to class while Noa gets picked up from practice by his wife and heads home for the evening.

But in fall camp, the optimism from offensive coaches about the passing game came from trust in Noa, who impressed immediately.

Which made Noa’s lack of production the first two games even odder.

Week 3 was more like it. As a sophomore at Cal, Noa caught 56 passes for 788 yards and four touchdowns. About five receptions per game.

“That’s what we need,” Walters said. “We need him to be steady, consistent, catch whatever.”

Be the change of pace. Surprise some people. Like he did during the talent show in fall camp.

“Yeah, he’s laid back, and then in fall camp we had the newcomers get up and do a talent. Like a talent show kind of thing. He got up and did a rap,” Walters said. “And it was like, ‘Who is this guy?’ ”

Best-case scenario as the season progresses, Noa becomes the much-needed third receiver the Huskers have been searching for.

He already has some fans. Randy Moss highlighted Noa’s touchdown catch on ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown.”

“Kanawai Noa. Kanawai Noa. Kanawai Noa. Kanawai Noa. I’m gonna sing a song for ya, boy,” Moss said, the highlight showing on screen. “That’s Kanawai Noa. I like the play, I like the hand-eye coordination, boy. I love it. Let me say that name one more time. Kanawai Noa.”

Best get used to saying it.