LOI day notebook, photos

Farrington linebacker Justin Vele enjoys the fit of his new Hawaii cap after signing with the Warriors on Wednesday. (photo: Paul Honda)

Some lingering thoughts on yesterday’s LOI signings.

Super Group: Watching the signees waiting in the ballroom of the Sheraton Waikiki early yesterday morning, I couldn’t help but think this: How good would these players (football) be if they were all on one team? There were quarterbacks, linemen, linebackers, defensive backs, receivers and, certainly, running backs — all of excellent quality. How good would they be together? Takes more than a few dozen to make a Top 25 powerhouse, but this wouldn’t be a bad starting point.

Add to this group at the PIAA event the signees at Kahuku, Tigi Hill and Ben Mamea. Assuming they qualify academically at UH, that makes for a class that would easily make for a powerful freshman class at almost any university.

Batterin’ Joe: Among the coaches and friends on hand at 6 a.m. to enjoy the event at the Sheraton was Pastor Joe Onosai, assistant coach at Pac-Five. He was the head coach at Word of Life, where Juda Parker and Paulay Asiata started their high school careers before moving on to Saint Louis when WOLA closed its doors. Coach Joe was in great spirits, as usual, but I flashed back to 1983 and wondered, what would a 6-foot-3, 240-pound running back from Pac-Five, via Kuhio Park Terrace, experience now?

Joe went to UH back then and became a sterling offensive lineman, later drafted by the Dallas Cowboys. Today, he believes he would’ve become a fullback at the college level, probably in a spread option offense like the one at Georgia Tech or Navy. That would’ve been something else. But I’m sure there are plenty of middle-agers who can remember trying to tackle Joe back in the day. Even now, a 240-pound running back is rare to see, even rarer to bring down.

He’s working on a book now. Promised me an autographed copy. I don’t read a lot of books, but this one is on my must-have list.

The call: T.J. Cuaresma, the executive director of PIAA, was one of two “guest” speakers at the PIAA event, following former Farrington and Arizona State lineman Shawn Lauvao (now in the NFL). Cuaresma, who took over for Doris Sullivan last year, has seen the ups and downs of running a nonprofit organization. PIAA, which continues to connect local prospects of all sports to mainland coaches, is a barebones organization that generations a huge amount of material for recruiters at no cost to local student-athletes.

That’s why it was timely for T.J. to ask for help yesterday. Not easy, but necessary. If former PIAA student-athletes all chipped in, the deficit that the organization faces would be wiped out easily, and carry PIAA forward for years to come. PIAA has organized fundraisers before, and those funds have helped immensely, but if T.J. has to ask for help publicly, that means things are getting really tough.

She asked families and former PIAA student-athletes to help with donations, but companies have helped in the past and will continue in the future. It might be one of the best investment in our state’s future that our hard-earned dollars will see.

Peni Vea, right, poses with Mayor Peter Carlisle. (photo: Paul Honda)

First come, first serve: Seeing Kealakehe’s hard-hitting safety, Peni Vea, sign with Utah State, took me back a couple of years. Like Vea, Robert Siavii of Leilehua was loyal to early recruiters.

Like Siavii, Vea got a late offer from Hawaii.

Like Siavii, Vea paid no mind to the latecomers and stuck with a bottom feeder in the WAC. I wish the best for Peni, who was outstanding when I saw his Kealakehe team play Waianae at the state tourney last fall. He returned kicks and inflicted pain. He was an aggressive safety who will likely find a home at OLB at the college level. (I like him better at safety.)

But when young players carry that bitterness of being ignored by UH, it bothers me as a Warrior fan. It’s all a numbers game, from available (limited) scholarships to basic vitals (height, weight, etc.). Me? I’d rather walk on at UH rather than take a scholarship to Auburn, Oregon, Boise State, wherever.

But, to each his own. Any young man who can go to college without paying a dime is wiser for it, and his parents should be ecstatic.

Paul Honda, Star-Advertiser


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