Feature: ‘Iolani QB Reece Foy (extended)

(This is the extended version of this morning’s feature story in the Star-Advertiser. This one has more content like Reece’s fantasy football lineup, a link to a video about Darfur and more.) 

He’s busy, as usual.

Reece Foy has a lot on his mind, even in the middle of summer while most high school seniors are galavanting around the island, hitting the beach and malls and … well, he has his share of fun. But his summer wasn’t quite what he had hoped.

The trip to Darfur didn’t happen. Since his freshman year, the ‘Iolani quarterback has bent over backwards trying to make awareness of the plight in Darfur, site of heinous crimes and genocide of women and children. There have been T-shirt sales, bake sales, a Facebook page shared with keiki in Darfur. Friendships have been forged, and the mission continues on. One year, they raised $10,000 and sent it to Darfur. Teenagers doing amazing work.

“He was going to Africa this summer, but that kind of fell through,” ‘Iolani football coach Wendell Look said of his starting quarterback. “He’s very into the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes), the spiritual side of life. That kinds of makes him more well-rounded, I think. He’s come a long way in his years here. It’s nice to see him mature and become a complete person.”

There’s football all summer, working out with returning receivers, throwing the ball, honing his footwork — gradually chipping away what used to be a hitch in his mechanics. The result?

Through his first three games, all interleague battles, Foy’s numbers were astounding: a 72.5-percent completion rate (50-for-69), 712 yards, 10 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. His state-leading passer rating of 206.97 was astronomical, even better than what Marcus Mariota did for Saint Louis two seasons ago. No coincidence, ‘Iolani meets Saint Louis on Saturday at Aloha Stadium.

Sweat. Pain. Injuries. Blood. Foy and his Raider brothers have paid the price.

But last week, Darfur and training at Eddie Hamada Field took a backseat for an hour or so. Nothing, absolutely nothing would interrupt that one sacred hour. It was time for Stormy Weather 808 to step up to the virtual podium and announce its draft picks.

Yes, Reece Foy is a fantasy football geek. And yes, he’s slightly ahead of his time. He picked Ray Rice with the No. 2 pick in the draft. Then, with the 19th selection, in a surprise, Foy selected Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan — projected as a 41st pick by Yahoo Sports. Foy might be one of the few who see this: like ‘Iolani, there are multiple weapons in the Falcons’ passing attack. Ryan has Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez, a solid blocking back in Michael Turner and a whiz-kid playmaker off the bench named Jacquizz Rodgers.

Foy’s got a group of relative unknowns who have built up some of the state’s best statistics: Tanner Nishioka, Chase Kanekuni, Chad Hanaoka, plus running backs Kody Mento and Yuuya Kato. Nishioka was a prolific playmaker last season, but Kanekuni and Hanaoka are coming into their own as first-year starters.

“They spent all summer throwing together, so that helps,” Look said.

“Reece likes to spread the ball around. He doesn’t like to zero in on one guy or favor one guy,” Nishioka said. “We like to help the younger guys learn. I feel like when they come up, they’ll be just as good, if not better. The older guys always helped us. They gave us work ethic and learn how to run the routes.”


IT IS A SYMPHONY of bubbles in the home of John and Terri Foy, at least in the room of their son, Reece. A 90-gallon tank houses at least 20 different fish, and for the most part, they all get along. There’s a 12-inch black ghost knife. Cichlids from Lake Malawi, native to Africa, all freshwater species. Reece is hooked on a show called ‘Tanked,’ which airs on Animal Planet.

Nishioka has seen the tank.

“He’s really into fish. It’s right next to his bed,” the receiver said.

And yes, Foy likes to eat fish, just not the ones in his tank. His mom (Terri) makes him furikake salmon at least twice a month. But the fish in his room provide an escape. The serenity is priceless. It’s a good counteraction to the daily competition. Look and his staff never stop challenging their team to improve and develop.

“The mindset of our quarterback, our offense runs by execution. You take what the defense gives you. When you do that, the offense runs by itself. When you try and force things, obviously, it’s harder,” Look said. “It’s about putting ego aside and throwing the right pass, and Reece has learned that. He has a natural instinct to make plays with his feet, and I don’t want to curb that. Sometimes our line gets overwhelmed and things break down. We’re fortunate that Reece can make plays happen. He’s learned how to keep his eyes downfield, that he can check it down or run and get a first down.”

Execution, discipline and improvisation in a matter of seconds, from one snap to the next.

“Coach puts a lot of new plays in for Reece,” Nishioka said. “He’s mobile and a great playmaker. He can make plays with his feet. I turnaround and see Reece running around with five guys chasing him left and right.”

Foy, once a severely undersized quarterback in a league of future BCS championship-contending football players, is older, wiser and larger now. Still not quite the prototype size for a college quarterback, but he still holds out faithfully for that one opportunity. At 5-foot-11 and 173 pounds, it’s only natural that he gravitates toward Drew Brees — who’s all of 6 feet tall — as a favorite player. Colt McCoy, the former University of Texas standout, is another favorite.

He’s been at the helm of an offense that has been key to the past two Division II state championships at ‘Iolani. His personal evolution in the pocket is simple: he started as a deep-ball launching scrambler, and now he stands in as long as possible, willing to take anything a defense gives him. That, he’s learned from Look and quarterbacks coach Joel Lane.

“(Coach) Joel always said, ‘Make the right decisions at the right spot, make the passes catchable for my receivers,’ ” Foy recalled. “I wouldn’t say I have complete mastery of our system. Defenses are so complex in the ILH, they’re constantly changing. Pac-Five dropped eight guys in coverage.”

It was just last Friday when the Raiders trailed 10-0 with less than 4 minutes to play. Pac-Five’s classic blueprint — a smashmouth ground attack and a stingy defense led by heavily-recruited Titus Failauga — had done the trick for nearly 45 minutes. Then came a stunning punt return for a touchdown by Max Look.

With less than a minute left, Look recovered a fumble, and Foy did the rest, hitting Tanner Nishioka for the game-winning touchdown. ‘Iolani escaped with a 16-10 win. All through the battle, Foy didn’t stray from the game plan. It’s the same when the Raiders score 43 points on Konawaena, 34 on Waipahu, 44 on Hawaii Prep or 16 against the Wolfpack.

“I do believe defenses can take away some things, but they’re also giving something else up. Coach Joel says, ‘You can’t go broke making a profit on every play.’ So I take the 5-yard hitch or the 3-yard out route,” Foy said.

That seasoned perspective is one reason the Raiders keep succeeding, whether Foy throws 21 touchdown passes (as a sophomore) or just 13 (as a junior). It might be the ticket to a roster spot in the Ivy League. He made unofficial visits to Harvard, Lafayette and Lehigh over the summer, and he participated in football camps at Holy Cross, Princeton and Yale. Foy’s pushing hard in the classroom with three AP courses. His 3.6 grade-point average as a junior pushed his cumulative higher (to 3.4).

On April 29, his grandmother, Hannah Livingston, passed away after battling cancer for years. She departed just a few months after Reece’s grandfather, Cato, died.

“Tutu came to all my games. She always picked me up from school,” he said. “It was hard, but I had to focus and set goals. Hopefully, all my hard work pays off.”

The tight schedule doesn’t stop Foy. He laughs a lot of the time. He’s driven. He has goals. Some of them happen to be closer to home, right there in his room.

“A couple of the fish will chase each other, but they pretty much get along,” he said. “It’s about creating the perfect ecosystem.”

Reece’s Stormy Weather 808

1. (2) Ray Rice RB

2. (19) Matt Ryan QB

3. (22) Andre Johnson WR

4. (39) Mike Wallace WR

5. (42) Trent Richardson RB

6. (59) Jermichael Finley TE

7. (62) Demaryius Thomas WR

8. (79) Torrey Smith WR

9. (82) Green Bay DEF

10. (99) BenJarvus Green-Ellis RB

11. (102) Santonio Holmes WR

12. (119) Jacob Tamme TE

13. (122) Matt Schaub QB

14. (139) Matt Bryant K

15. (142) Rashard Mendenhall

“My only regret is passing on Adrian Peterson for Andre. … For some reason, the injury pushed me away from him but hopefully when Mendenhall comes back I’ll be OK. To me, it’s worth to wait for him.”

On football: “It’s one of my passions. I love it. But I know it’s a smaller part of my life compared to what’s to come.”

How it started: “I’ve been playing quarterback since I was 5, playing for my dad (John) at Wai-Kahala flag football. I never played any form of tackle until seventh grade at ‘Iolani.”

Colt McCoy, a favorite: “He’s small, undersized like Drew Brees, but he can run. I read a book on him and his faith in God.”

Favorite scripture: I James 1: 2-4. “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

On fantasy football: Reece won his league last year with Dree Brees as his quarterback. The league balked, however, at QB- and WR-friendly statistics, so it’s about old-school rushing numbers now. “They wanted to even it out. I had to do so much research for my draft.” He wound up drafting Ray Rice in Round 1 and Matt Ryan in Round 2 (see more above in the story).

On the ILH’s freshman rule: “Freshmen can’t play (varsity football). It’s a good rule. It’s for the safety of the kids. At ‘Iolani, it would be tempting. There’s a freshman running back, Jordan Ruff. He could help us. He’s Joe Igber-ish.”

Striving for perfection: “Every day, Coach Joel (Lane) always says, ‘Strive to get better, don’t compare yourself to anybody else. … This year, I’ve really worked on accuracy. I shortened my stride step, keeping everything within my frame. I had a little hitch, so we smoothed it out.”

Who’s the best defensive back out there? “Our offense is not predicated on any single DB. Every play has three or four options. We don’t really have a No. 1 receiver. I do believe defenses can take away things, but they’re also giving something up.”

Offseason Sundays: “I go to Vinny’s (Saint Louis quarterbacks coach Vinnie Passas) camps.”

Favorite athlete: Carmelo Anthony.

Favorite class: “Shoot. I enjoy all my courses.”

Favorite teacher: “There are so many teachers at ‘Iolani who have been good to me.”

Favorite NFL team: New Orleans Saints.

Favorite food: Furikake salmon, made by mom (Terri).

Favorite pregame music: “Remember the Name” by Fort Minor.

Favorite TV program: ESPN and ‘Tanked’ (Animal Planet).

Favorite store: Petland (Kahala Mall). “I know all the guys there. They’re real nice guys.”

Fish in his 90-gallon tank: “There’s a fire eel. A 12-inch black ghost knife. A cichlid from Lake Malawi (Africa). I don’t name my fish. I just enjoy them. It’s just calming.”

The future of fish in his 90-gallon tank: “I’m going to college, so I’m starting to downsize. I’m gonna sell more (fish).”

On this week’s opponent, Saint Louis: “They’re really physical. They’ve got a bunch of playmakers on defense. We have our work cut out. They’ve got great safeties with Jake (Lacaden) and Pali (Galdeira). They have Kamalei (Correa) and Colton (Goeas) on the line.”

On his receiving corps: “I believe in Chase, Chad and Austin as much as I do in Tanner. I threw a lot with Chase and Chad, especially, in the offseason, and Austin, after our (team) workouts, so we have familiarity and trust.”

Evolution of Raider offense: “Coach (Wendell Look) will always add more wrinkles. He travels around (the country). He’s a firm believer in execution. If we execute, we can’t be stopped.”

All about Darfur: As a freshman, Reece was part of Operation Raising Awareness for Darfur (ORAD), which mean producing a video that earned an award from the Rotary Club. A year later, they hosted Camp Darfur, a group of 10 tents on campus that brought 2,000 students in for education about the situation.

(See the video at this link.)

As a junior, Reece and his friends organized Take Action Day, getting schoolmates to call 1-800-GENOCID(E), a hotline to senators. History classes were involved in the activity, which was part of awareness of Bill No. 4169, Reece said. They also sold wristbands and T-shirts and made direct contact with children in Darfur via a Facebook page  — using a video chat.

“We sent $10,000 to them,” he said.

They cheered for Darfur United, a soccer team that played in VIVA 2012, a tournament for nations that didn’t qualify for FIFA.

“They didn’t win, but they scored a goal. They did a blog and photos and they were so happy to be part of the world,” Reece said.

And finally..

“Aside from my coaches, friends and family, the No. 1 person I play for and give all the glory to is God, the man above.”

Paul Honda, Star-Advertiser


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