It’s not easy for Abu Maafala to zero in on the highlight of his athletic career, so we’ll do it for him.
How does tackling Reggie Bush sound?!!!
You walk in to a party, meet some people, the conversation gets to football, you tell them you tackled Reggie Bush. Get this man a drink!
Yes, Abu (real name Albert) Maafala did it when his Cal teams lined up against Matt Leinart, LenDale White, Bush and the best college football team in the early part of the 21st century.
It’s the simple truth. Not something the new Kamehameha football head coach brags about, but we here at Hawaii Prep World are tooting his horn for him.
Maafala spoke with HPW on Tuesday for a lengthy interview and gave us his ideas of the direction of the Warriors.
“it was kind of surreal,” the former Kamehameha, University of Hawaii and Cal defensive lineman said about learning he got the head job coaching at his alma mater.”My wife (Marleina Maafala, maiden name Bernardino, who Abu calls the ‘brains of the operation’) and I were kind of waiting and hoping for the right opportunity to come along. For this to be my first head coaching job, I honestly never thought I would be the head coach at Kamehameha. I was really so grateful able to be able to go to Kamehameha (as a student). It changed my life for the better. At Kamehameha, it’s such a unique situation. We don’t just represent the people who go to that school, we represent Hawaiian people as a whole. That’s a big thing for me — that opportunity to give back to the Hawaiian community.
He sees his players and staff as serving the community as a whole.
“The No. 1 thing we’re going to establish as a program is we’re going to be servants. We have to be,” he said. “It’s a wonderful thing that we have the ability to touch so many people and we need to help our kids realize that. As a society, we have kind of lost sight of that. We want to bring that back to focus and the core values that will shape and mold these guys for life — every single person, starting with myself to the last intermediate player.
“That’s going to be the standard. A famous quote by Vince Lombardi has stuck with me, ‘Chase perfection and catch excellence.’ We are going to demand as much as we can to get them obsessed with the process of what it takes to be great. You can learn so many life lessons through football if you can focus on the process and bettering yourself and mastering yourself and giving your best effort. That’s what it’s all about. Winning will all take care of itself. It’s about the team, the whole, not as individuals, sacrificing and serving each other.
When pressed for his career highlight, it actually had nothing to do with Reggie Bush. It had to do with seeing former players under him become successful coaches. Prior to being hired at Kamehameha, Maafala was an assistant coach at West Liberty University in West Virginia.
“I have two former players that played for me and went on to advance their careers in coaching,” he said. “Dan Carrel is grad assistant at the University of Houston. He has also been an assistant at the University of Kentucky and Ohio State. And TL Lesniewski is a position coach at Marietta in Ohio. I’m seeing what happens to the players after playing football and how they’ve grown into men. That’s when the lightbulb goes off and I fully comprehend why I’m doing this.”
Another highlight of his playing days: the brotherhood aspect.
“Just being there with my teammates, day in and day out; the relationships you form,” Maafala said “I have guys that are still my friends today, even though I haven’t seen him since I left Cal or left Hawaii. That’s the overarching thing. The playing days were important, but that doesn’t trump seeing guys mature as men, or getting kids as snot-nosed freshman and teaching them football and teaching them life.”
Maafala plans on being a bit more basic than the fast-paced offenses that are all the rage these days.
“We’re going to slow the game down,” he said. “The No. 1 thing in my opinion that coaches kind of forget is we’ve got to develop talent. There’s a place for the no-huddle offense, but I really, really want to teach football. Teach our offensive players about the defense. What’s coming in cover 1, what’s coming in cover 3. I’m a defensive-minded guy and we want to be able to run the football. I’m not sure if we have the lineup of players they have at Kahuku to run the Stanford style of offense that Vavae Tata is running over there. But games are won and lost in the trenches, and if you can’t control the line of scrimmage, you can’t win football games. We’ll be very simple with the passing game, with easy concepts kids can grasp.
“Defensively, we’ll be teaching tendencies, understanding splits. We’ll be a multiple-front defense and try to teach kids enough so they can play Jedi mind tricks with the opponents’ offenses. We’re going to be going up against a kid (Saint Louis quarterback Tua Tagovailoa) who is being recruited by the entire universe. We’ve got to be prepared for everything, and the only way to do that is to keep things simple at first and then add some different wrinkles. Going up against great coaches like Cal Lee (Saint Louis), Kale Ane (Punahou) and Wendell Look (‘Iolani), we will have to be able to disguise and create confusion.”
Maafala, who is finishing up his duties at West Liberty, will meet his Warriors players in May for spring practice. Beforehand, he will also meet them via Skype on May 3.
As for going up against USC and tackling Reggie Bush, the Heisman Trophy winner?
“That is one of the real deals I’ll always remember.”