Sunday, September 16, 2001
[ UH WARRIOR FOOTBALL ]
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Justin Colbert has begun to try to fill the shoes
of former UH receiver Dwight Carter.
Meeting expectationsT was a classic highlight film catch.
Justin Colbert has worked hard
to make a contribution
By Dave Reardon
A diving-forward, two-arms-outstretched, gather-it-in grab.
Good for 52 yards, it was the key to a 12-play drive that ended with a Hawaii touchdown in its 30-12 victory over Montana on Sept. 8.
So, who made this great reception?
Ashley Lelie, he of the world-class speed and NBA-type leaping ability?
Craig Stutzmann, who is regaining his reputation as the Warriors' Mr. Clutch?
Try Justin Colbert, the diminutive "X" receiver, who in the past was an X factor in the Hawaii receiver corps. Colbert was spectacular at times last season in his first year as a starter, but lacked consistency.
Plus, fans compared him to Dwight Carter. Carter was a reliable star during UH's 1999 championship season, when Colbert was an apprentice.
Some fans expected Colbert to be Carter last year.
"Dwight was a very good receiver, but at the same time I know I can play," said Colbert, a junior from Rialto, Calif. "I know the coaches brought me here because they know I can play. So I have the confidence."
Head coach June Jones and receivers coach Ron Lee, as well as Colbert's fellow receivers, never lost their faith in him -- especially when they saw how hard Colbert worked to improve.
Born: June 9, 1981 in Upland, Calif.
Height and weight: 5 feet 7 inches, 155 pounds
Games: 20 Receptions: 73
Yards: 941 TDs: 3 Long: 74
Prep: Four letters in track and three in football at A.B. Miller High School in Fontana, Calif. Honor roll member. Recruited by Wisconsin, Colorado, Washington State, Kansas and Oregon.
Academic interest: Broadcasting.
Parents: Shirley Randle of Rialto, Calif., and Al Caffey of Fontana, Calif.
"He worked on catching hundreds of balls over the summer," Jones said. "He's smart, he's got tremendous speed and he wants to be the best."
Against Montana, Colbert grabbed 8 receptions -- the same number as Lelie and Stutzmann -- for a career-high 139 yards.
"What a game," Lee said. "He's got that great speed. Even though the corners were playing him soft, he still ran by them.
"I'm so proud of him. I felt awful for him last year because he'd worked hard on getting better but he was still dropping the ball."
Said Lelie: "We all had our share of problems last year. It was always, go to the next play, because the next play is the most important play."
Colbert said the problem wasn't his hands. It was his eyes.
"As far as I know, I have 20-20 vision. But I went to they eye doctor and they did a lot of tests," Colbert said.
"They found my eyes have trouble working together. My left eye has a tendency to do what it wants sometimes. But as long as I keep my mind on it I shouldn't have any problems.
"They had me doing a lot of eye exercises, concentrating all the way through the catch," he said.
Concentrating after the big, 52-yard catch would have saved Colbert a 15-yard penalty. He was called for excessive celebration after the play, moving the ball from the Montana 10 to its 25. It turned out not to hurt the Warriors, as they scored on the drive anyway.
Lee said Colbert is the farthest thing from a showboat.
"He's a great kid. Quiet, real student of the game," the coach said. "He's always been a team guy and comes from a great family."
Colbert grinned shyly when asked about his celebration -- which really couldn't have been considered of the taunting variety.
"I was excited and trying to get the fans excited, too," he said. "You know, it was our first time on the island (of Maui). We were trying to give them a good time out there."
If Colbert keeps making such circus catches, the good times will be many for Hawaii fans.
Ka Leo O Hawaii