Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Hula Bowl players
want shot at NFL

College all-stars have one more
game to impress NFL scouts

By Paul Arnett

KAHULUI, Maui >> If you think printing the Hula Bowl roster is an easy thing to do, check with Brad Cress and he'll set you straight.

Last night most of the players for this week's college all-star game touched down at Kahului Airport in time for today's opening practices across the street from War Memorial Stadium. But there were a few stragglers expected to report late for duty.

"If you have last week's roster, then you're already behind," Hula Bowl official Cress said, then smiled. "We've had a lot of people coming and going. It's kind of a daily thing. But I think we've finally got everything and everyone in place."

Despite some serious last-minute defections that include quality quarterbacks Ken Dorsey and Byron Leftwich, and University of Hawaii standouts Pisa Tinoisamoa and Vince Manuwai, there are still plenty of talented players expected to play in Saturday's nationally televised game.

Chief among them are University of Iowa quarterback Brad Banks, Texas Tech signal-caller Kliff Kingsbury, California running back Joe Igber, Ohio State wideout Chris Vance and a host of University of Miami players, including defensive tackle Matt Walters and place-kicker Todd Sievers.

Hurricanes head coach Larry Coker is in the house, leading the Aina squad, while University of Texas head coach Mack Brown will pace the Kai sidelines. Brown has some talented players of his own making the trip, including Longhorns linebacker Lee Jackson, Florida State defensive end Alonzo Jackson, University of Southern California safety DeShawn Hill and Trojans defensive tackle Bernard Riley.

There are plenty of local connections as well, including University of Hawaii wideout Justin Colbert and offensive tackle Lui Fuata, who are both suiting up on the Aina side of the field. They will be facing teammates Sean Butts at safety, punter Mat McBriar, and defensive stars Chris Brown at linebacker and down lineman La'anui Correa.

Also returning home to play is Harvard quarterback Neil Rose, who has already signed up to work for a local stock brokerage company. It promises to be one of the more interesting collections of players in the Hula Bowl.

"It's been interesting getting it all together," Cress said. "Joe Igber (an Iolani graduate) has to work out his classroom schedule, but we expect him to be with us on Tuesday or Wednesday. It's been very busy around here the past few days."

And the schedule doesn't get any lighter from here. In addition to the morning workouts, the players will be involved in autograph sessions, shopping sprees, banquets and free time to take in the beautiful beaches of Maui.

The players also get to take part in the Pro Bowl on Sunday as the marriage between the two all-star events is finally consummated. Last year, the Pro Bowl had to be moved back a weekend because of the 9/11 complications, leaving the Hula Bowl alone in its original timeslot.

There are also plenty of NFL scouts in town this week to meet with the players, time them, measure them and test them to see if they're prepared for the rigors of the NFL. As you would expect, guys like Brown, Correa, Colbert and McBriar of UH are excited about the possibilities of playing on Sundays.

"Since I was a little kid, I've wanted to play in the Hula Bowl," said Chris Brown, who hopes this week's opportunity leads to bigger and better things. "To be around all these great players is exciting. You want to see how you measure up."

Of all the UH players in the house, McBriar may have the best shot of landing an NFL job this fall. The punter from Australia didn't have enough attempts to qualify for the Division I stat pool, but his hang time and 44.8-yard average caught the eye of several scouts.

Kickoff for Saturday's game, which will be broadcast nationally on ESPN, is 4:05 p.m. Tickets are still on sale at three price levels. For more information, call the Hula Bowl office at 871-4141.

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