Monday, May 24, 1999
Time to show
he has the fire
Former St. Louis starBy Pat Bigold
Kaipo McGuire chases his NFL
dream in Spain with the
FAR, far away in the autonomous Spanish region of Catalonia, in a seaport on the Mediterranean, Hawaii's Kaipo McGuire works at achieving his American dream.
The dream is to become a regular player in the National Football League after two straight seasons on the Indianapolis Colts' practice squad.
Playing for the Barcelona Dragons of the seven-year-old NFL Europe is the means to that end.
"I'm here because I need the experience," McGuire said by telephone from his hotel room just outside Spain's second largest city.
McGuire, 25, is a starting wide receiver for theDragons (4-2), who are tied for first place with the Scotland Claymores after yesterday's 27-20 loss to the Berlin Thunder.
If Barcelona meets expectations and makes it to the World Bowl at Rheinstadion in Dusseldorf, Germany on June 27, he'll get more than just experience this spring. He'll also get plenty of exposure.
Last year, an estimated 250 million viewers in 150 countries watched the World Bowl via the Fox network.
Having signed with Indianapolis as a free agent in May 1997, McGuire is better known at the grocery store right now than he is at the stadium.
He appeared in three regular-season NFL games in 1997 and only one last year. He's never had a regular-season reception, though he co-led the Colts in receiving yardage during the 1997 exhibition season.
But McGuire, who helped lead St. Louis School to three Oahu Prep Bowl titles and then played four seasons for Brigham Young, received a positive message about his football future when the Colts allocated him to NFL Europe.
"It means they have a young player they think is pretty good and they want to make him better," said Jack Bicknell, head coach of the Dragons. "In Kaipo's case, he's proved he's good enough for the NFL."
Despite nursing a hamstring injury, McGuire has 15 receptions for 215 yards (an average of 14.3). His longest reception is 33 yards.
He also has four kickoff returns for 64 yards (longest 23).
"I like Coach Bicknell," McGuire said of the former Boston College coach. "He's a total kick-back coach. Gives us plenty of free time. ... And you know he was Doug Flutie's coach, so he's definitely a passing coach."
One of McGuire's more high-profile teammates is running back Lawrence Phillips, who last played for the Miami Dolphins. Phillips has scored six touchdowns with a team-record 548 yards rushing.
"Off the field, he's laying low, but on the field he's unbelievable," McGuire said. "He's such a pure runner and you never know what he's going to do."
Bicknell led the Dragons to the World Bowl title in 1997, a 38-24 win over the Rhein Fire at Barcelona's home stadium, Estadi Olimpic de Montjuic.
"The 1992 Olympics were held there," McGuire said.
"Soccer is still the No. 1 sport here, but we get 15,000 to 20,000 people at a home game. In Germany, they draw 40,000 to 50,000."
Bicknell said McGuire is "very quick and tough." He said he likes how McGuire is able to make people miss tackles.
"The big question for him is, can he get off the bump coverage at his size (5-foot-10, 174 pounds). A guy Kaipo's size has to be quick."
Colts receivers coach Jay Norvell said he is anxious to get another look at McGuire when training camp opens July 22.
"I know that he is capable of making our club," Norvell said. "But it's not easy. It will come down to his special teams play compared with the other guys in camp."
Norvell said he likes McGuire's work ethic and character.
"In a way, he's already beaten the odds because he's still with us and he's not the strongest or the fastest guy. He's real smart, has good hands, quickness, runs good routes, and can separate from coverage."
McGuire sounds like a kid on a field trip when he talks about being in Europe for the first time.
"Spain is beautiful and the people are so friendly," he said.
McGuire said the Spanish he took at St. Louis helps him get by.
He said he's getting used to a variety of cultural shocks such as seeing whole chickens and squirrels hanging in the market places, and drinking warm milk.
"And I swear all the taxis in town are Mercedes," he said.
McGuire couldn't be happier with his digs in Sitges, a beach resort a half hour outside Barcelona.
"I cross the street and I'm in sand," said McGuire, who lives with the other players at a hotel.
"There are two- to three-foot waves out here and I actually bought a body board to use."
McGuire said he can't wait to come back to Hawaii this summer.
"I haven't seen my niece yet, and she's about five months old now."
If McGuire accomplishes all he wants this year, getting to the World Bowl and then making an NFL roster, he will have played 27 football games in nine months.
That's quite a year. So he doesn't plan anything strenuous when he comes home for his break before Colts camp.
"I think I'm just going to go to the beach," he said.
NFL EUROPE ON THE 'NETWant to watch Kaipo McGuire play? Some games are telelvised on ESPN-2. Otherwise, log on to http://www.nfleurope.com and follow the viewing instructions. You might want to buy the enhanced version of Real Player, otherwise video quality is rudimentary.