Star-Bulletin Sports


Monday, August 30, 1999


N. F. L. _ H A W A I I



Mili feeling like a kid after
first NFL touchdown

By Pat Bigold
Star-Bulletin

Tapa

It's been about 32 months since Itula Mili felt the insides of his right knee turn to mush during his final game as a BYU Cougar.

He'd never play football again, according to many who saw or heard about the devastating injury.

The thought of Mili recovering to score an NFL touchdown seemed like medical science fiction.

But on the Seattle Seahawks' second possession in Saturday's preseason victory (41-7) over the Arizona Cardinals at the Kingdome, Mili completed his painfully amazing comeback by hauling in a three-yard pass from Jon Kitna to give Seattle a 7-0 lead.

The moment overwhelmed him.

"All the guys like Ricky Watters were coming out to congratulate me and I was running around so stoked like a little kid, saying, 'Hey this is my first one,' said Mili, who also caught passes for 12 and 17 yards.

Mili's wife of three months, Melisa Giles, had just flown in from Utah two days earlier with her mother. She saw the touchdown from a seat in the Kingdome.

"I was looking at a magazine and I happened to glance up and catch it," Giles said. "I thought, 'Oh my goodness,' I was so excited."

Mili pulled what looked like a basketball post-up move on Arizona linebacker Ronald McKinnon to make the catch.

Mili - an all-state center for Kahuku High's basketball team as well as a track and field standout - said he resorted to his high school moves to make up for a pass route that got turned around on the scoring play.

"We'd been working on this play since mini camps and I'd mastered it," said Mili. "But it turned into a backyard kind of deal. I wound up boxing out this guy (McKinnon), pivoting around him, and just sealing him off, to make a big target for the quarterback."

Mili said he never forgets what he went through to get to the NFL.

Not only did the late 1996 knee injury end his college career, but it sidelined him for the entire 1997 Seahawks season.

In 1998, he caught only one pass.

"I always think of that, and, you know what, in some ways, I'm glad I went through it. It helps you when trials come up again. You know what it takes to handle them."

Mili said he doesn't have any fear of reinjuring his knee.

"I feel my legs are a lot stronger than before, a lot faster than before, because I just focused on them (in rehab)," said Mili.

He said he kept the ball he caught in the end zone. But it's not this one he will send to his parents in Laie.

"I think I want to send my parents my first really official one (touchdown) in the regular season," said Mili, who has started the last two games in place of injured fifth-year veteran Christian Fauria.

If Mili continues to progress, it will make it harder for the Seahawks to hand the starting job back to Fauria when he recovers.

But Mili said he misses Fauria.

"I'm really excited for him to come back because I've learned a lot from him," he said. "I like the idea of me and Christian working together. It might cause trouble for some defenses."

Mili said he went over to speak with former Leilehua running back Adrian Murrell of the Cardinals before the game.

"I said, 'Hey, Leilehua,' " said Mili. "And he turned around real quick and he looked at me. I said, 'I used to high jump with you.' I was 10th grade and he was a senior. I don't think he knew who I was at first."

Murrell, a seventh-year veteran, had 47 yards on 10 carries as well as 14 yards on two receptions.

In the only other news regarding a player with Hawaii ties, former Rainbows wide receiver Dillan Micus was waived by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers yesterday. Micus had signed as a college free agent on April 19.

He started two years at Northern Colorado after transferring from Hawaii, where he had 58 receptions for 902 yards and four scores in two seasons.

Teams must cut down to 65 players this week. That could affect a few of the remaining 16 players with Hawaii ties in the NFL.



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