Saturday, February 2, 2002
Players ready toWAILUKU, Maui >> For some, like Leo Caires and Joe Correia, it's a chance to play their last college game on their home island.
show off skills
1 last time
Local players and potential
NFL draft picks make final
preparations for today's Hula Bowl
By Dave Reardon
For others, like Dante Wesley and Nick Rolovich, it's an opportunity to show they deserve to be drafted by an NFL team.
Then there's Eric Crouch. Even Heisman Trophy winners have their doubters.
Who: Kai vs. Aina
When: Today, 3 p.m.
Where: War Memorial Stadium, Maui
Radio: 1110-AM (Maui)
The Nebraska quarterback hopes today's Hula Bowl allows him to prove that he's much more than an option quarterback with little marketability as a pro at the position.
Kickoff is 3 p.m., after what promises to be a stirring flag-raising ceremony involving Air Force center Ben Miller.
Kai coach Dennis Erickson of Oregon State said Crouch will play some slotback today, but he will start at quarterback.
With Erickson calling the plays, Crouch should get all the passing in that he wants. Even if he doesn't, at least one scout thinks he can make it as an NFL quarterback ... or receiver.
"Over the course of the week he's shown he can make all the throws that are needed at the next level," Minnesota Vikings scout Jeff Robinson said of Crouch. "He's also shown he can catch the ball. We're talking about a very talented athlete. The more you can do, the more valuable you are."
That's Mike Souza's philosophy, too.
The Northwestern offensive lineman and former Punahou standout has played mostly right tackle the past three years for the Wildcats. But he's got experience all over the line, as well as at long snapper.
"I'm willing to do anything," said the 6-foot-6, 297-pound Souza, who is joined by five other players from Hawaii high schools on the Kai roster. "It's great to be playing back in Hawaii, but this week is also a real big deal for me. It's a chance to get some exposure and show I can play well against some tough competition and show the scouts what they want to see.
"In the end, though, it's all about lining up and playing football."
Nevada guard Kika Kaululaau agrees, even though he harbors no dreams of a professional career. The Waianae graduate helped wear out the Hawaii defense last fall in the Wolf Pack's victory over the Warriors, but Kaululaau doesn't consider himself a pro prospect of any kind. He looks forward to returning to Reno, getting a degree, and becoming a teacher and coach.
"I'm just happy to be here, as they say," said the 6-foot, 305-pound Kaululaau. "It's great to get to play one more game. That's all I'm really thinking about here."
It's one last college game for Aina assistant coach Steve Spurrier, too. The one man who had the most profound effect on the college game over the last 10 years is moving on to the Washington Redskins after a legendary run with Florida that included a national championship.
"I am excited (about Washington). I needed a change of pace," Spurrier said. "(It was) all about the same after awhile. I was hoping we could achieve a little more this year, but we lost to Tennessee in the last game, we rebounded and won the bowl game and finished third in the country, but it wasn't a great year."
He plans to throw the ball today, too.
"We've only got about three or four running plays, we kept that simple," Spurrier said. "The players are picking things up pretty well in the limited practice time."
Erickson's penchant for a wide-open game and Spurrier pitching it around one last time should lead to a high-scoring game.
After a deluge on Monday and Tuesday, the weather has cooperated and is expected to be clear today.
Also, the game's rules disallow blitzing and encourage man-to-man defenses. That takes Aina head coach Bob Stoops' forte out of the game, but he didn't seem to mind the prospect of a high-scoring game. He's got some game-breaking receivers, including Miami's Daryl Jones.
"This could be a steppingstone for me," Jones said. "I had some injuries during the year, so a good showing can help me. But most of all, this is fun, getting to meet all these players from around the country."
And out of the country -- five players from Japan are here. They participated in practice, but won't play in this year's game.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff cornerback Wesley and UH quarterback Rolovich were relative unknowns and now have a chance to be drafted because of the Hula Bowl.
Then there are other local favorites, Caires and Correia; the former went to Wyoming on a rodeo scholarship and the latter was a pro baseball player.
Both ended up playing college football, both ended up getting a rare six years of eligibility because of injury.
And both are home for their last game.
Or is it the final hurrah?
You never know. Rich Miano didn't until he played in the Hula Bowl in 1984. He said the confidence he gained playing with the nation's best jump-started his long NFL career.
"Practicing with that kind of talent and having a pretty good game made me realize I was just as good or better," said the UH assistant coach, who watched practice Wednesday. "And they did a great job getting so many scouts out here this year that if somebody's deserving, they won't be missed."