Darren Hernandez might need a new phone or at least a new phone number.
The Kapolei football head coach has been inundated by calls and messages the last two weeks since he announced on TV that June Jones would be joining the Hurricanes as the offensive coordinator for the 2016 season.
“It’s been a crazy two weeks. So many people wanted to give well-wishes. I feel like chopped liver,” he joked via telephone Wednesday.
So, how did what seemed impossible happen? Jones, who turned poor Hawaii and SMU teams into successes and also was the head man with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and San Diego Chargers, going to Kapolei as an assistant? No way!
Well, in a nutshell, it’s all about the quarterback. Yes, he has a knack for finding the good ones, and, apparently, now he’s going to them instead of the other way around. He wants to mentor Taulia Tagovailoa, who will be a sophomore next season.
Here’s how Hernandez described the initial contact:
“During the season, Taulia was making his first start against Mililani and he threw for 394 yards. We got beat badly, 67-21, but he threw three touchdowns in the first half. June heard about it, called me and said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me, a freshman throwing for so many yards (against the defending state champions).’ He was also impressed that he had 60-plus attempts.
“He (Jones) was intrigued. He came down to watch him practice, stayed in the background and watched the offense. He was very impressed with what he saw. He even came over and helped us as an offense, tweaked a few things that we were doing. In Taulia’s next game, against Moanalua, he threw about 70 passes for 464 yards and four TDs.”
At the end of the season, Kapolei offensive coordinator Galu Tagovailoa — Taulia’s dad — stepped down so he can concentrate on watching both of his sons as a father and not as a coach, according to Hernandez. Tua Tagovailoa, Taulia’s brother will be a senior quarterback at Saint Louis next season and has 15 Division I scholarship offers.
“My first idea would be that I would be the OC,” Hernandez said. “And I had planned to meet with June anyway to go over our offense. He said he had lots of time on his hands and suggested that he could be the OC. I wasn’t about to say, ‘Sorry, I have other plans.’ ”
Jones went 112-94 as a head coach in college and 22-36 in the pros.
Taulia Tagovailoa went 216-for-386 for 2,784 yards with 22 touchdowns and 12 interceptions as a freshman. Think of what Jones — a jedi master of the run-and-shoot — might be able to do to help Tagovailoa improve.
“He’s a smart kid, he watches a lot of film, he’s very accurate,” Hernandez said.
In the OIA playoffs at Kahuku, one of the best defenses in state history, Tagovailoa thew for 356 yards in a 56-10 loss.
“He had four interceptions in that game, but only two were his fault,” Hernandez said. “The other two were to spots where the receiver was supposed to be. It was in the toughest, bar none, place to play in Hawaii and on a soft, muddy field.”
Hernandez has known Jones for years, but the two have never coached together.
“I’ve always struggled getting a consistent offensive coordinator,” Hernandez said. “People say June coaching at Kapolei is a step down. It’s not about going down. Football is football. He loves Hawaii. He wants to be in Hawaii. It’s a natural fit.”
Added Galu Tagovailoa: “It’s unreal that Taulia is going to be coached by one of the best college coaches. It’s a blessing for our family.”