Tuesday, January 19, 1999
gets Hula Bowl
Seven football playersBy Paul Arnett
with Hawaii ties will
KAHULUI -- One came from the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee-Chattanooga. Another spent four seasons making a Pac-10 name for himself on the back roads of Oregon State.
A couple more rode in from under the big skies of Montana, two others played beneath the rainbows that stretch across Manoa and one found a new life at picturesque BYU.
The two things these college football players have in common are calling Honolulu home and playing in this Sunday's Hooters Hula Bowl at Maui's War Memorial Stadium.
''It's going to be great seeing all the guys and playing in this game with them,'' Hawaii defensive lineman Ben Bright said after the two teams arrived on Maui yesterday. He and inside linebacker Stephen Gonzales are the Rainbows' representatives.
''Most of us played against each other in high school,'' Bright said. ''I want to make an impression on the scouts, but I also want to have some fun. This is something I dreamed about.''
That sentiment was echoed by most of the other players with Hawaii ties. In addition to Bright and Gonzales, also playing for the South is Tennessee-Chattanooga defensive tackle Kolu Fainuulelei. His high school days were spent with Farrington's Skippa Diaz.
The four players from Hawaii on the North are Montana quarterback Brian Ah Yat and receiver Raul Pacheco, Oregon State's Inoke Breckterfield and offensive lineman Hauoli Wong of BYU.
Wong began his career as a tackle for Hawaii, but after Bob Wagner's staff was let go in 1995, the former Kailua High standout opted to go to Provo, Utah.
''I did the right thing for me,'' Wong said. ''To be honest, I never thought about playing in this game when I was in high school. But I'm going to have fun and try to impress the scouts by playing the way I did at BYU.''
Of the seven, Wong has the best shot of landing an NFL job. Oregon State defensive end Breckterfield also has a shot at being drafted, but his size could work against him.
He's listed at 5-foot-11, 249, but that's probably with his pads and cleats on. To look at him, you wouldn't think he was the most productive defensive player in Oregon State history, but the statistics don't lie.
Breckterfield holds five OSU records, including quarterback sacks (20) and tackles for loss (57). The former Damien High standout not only was first team All-Pac-10, but an honorable mention All-America for Football News.
''When you're my size, you have to have a nasty streak in you to play this game,'' Breckterfield said. ''But I try to leave that on the field. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to impress the scouts and see if it takes me to the next level.''
If all else fails, Breckterfield could always sign a free-agent deal with the San Diego Chargers, who recently hired his old coach at Oregon State. He said he plans to see Mile Riley next week.
Unfortunately for Montana's Ah Yat and Pacheco, they don't have that kind of inside deal. But they do have some impressive numbers. Ah Yat finished second in school history and seventh in the Big Sky Conference record book with 9,315 yards passing.
Having Pacheco on the other end didn't hurt. He is Montana's all-time leading receiver with 192 receptions for 2,527 yards and 21 touchdowns. The two Iolani School teammates, who continued their special connection at Montana, are probably playing together for the final time.
''We both want to play at the next level, so this is an opportunity for us to show we can play against these guys,'' Ah Yat said. ''It's important for us to impress the scouts in practice.''
Gonzales and Fainuulelei agreed. The game will be fun, but practice is all business.
''I got back home to Honolulu a couple of days ago feeling really good,'' said Gonzales, who has recovered from shoulder and ankle injuries that plagued him during the season. ''I know this is for fun, but it's also an opportunity to show the scouts we can play at the next level.''
No one at Farrington thought Fainuulelei had any shot of playing in the NFL. When he started playing football for the Governors, he was 5-6, 140. These days, he's 6-4, 280 and a possible sleeper in the draft.
''It's good to be home and playing in a game like this,'' the defensive tackle said. ''I could have played for Oregon State coming out of high school, but I didn't have the grades.
''I went to Arizona Western Community College for two years, before playing in Chattanooga. It was a lot different there in Tennessee than Hawaii, but it got me here to this game.''