Kalani Simpson Sidelines

Kalani Simpson

Thursday, October 2, 2003

Stennis drops
memory of incompletion

HE had it. He had the chance of a lifetime in his hands and he dropped it, he and that surefire touchdown pass falling together to the Aloha Stadium turf.

Your heart breaks for a kid in a moment like that.

He'd gotten behind his man. He'd gotten behind everyone. He was alone, just him and the ball, and he was going to score.

That was it.

He'll never get it back.

But no, June Jones said yesterday. That wasn't the only chance for Sean Stennis.

"He'll get some more," Jones said. "He'll play."

And yesterday, there was Stennis in the bright morning sun, making a couple of great catches, and quite a few of the routine variety, too.

One long grab brought the team to its feet.

Saturday night's Big Drop?

"I don't think about it at all, really," Stennis said.

Good move.

He made the cut to go to Tulsa this week.

He's got lots of other things to occupy his mind, as a redshirt freshman trying to make it in the run-and-shoot.

He has to pause to collect his thoughts, just to take it all in.

"Every step," he said, "every inch counts."

One extra step to the inside, and a safety moves a foot in another direction, and a whole new world opens up. And that's the play. That's by design. He's starting to see that now. He's starting to get it.

That, and more reps, too.

More chances.

More of an opportunity to, as he puts it, "get sweatier, get hungrier."

Which is good, because Hawaii is running low on receivers right now, and if you're young and hungry, you've got a shot. If you can just learn to play receiver at UH.

If you can only become a master craftsman.

"Aw, man," he said.

He's got to pause at the enormity of the task.

So he's going back to high school, in his mind. When, Stennis said, he wasn't the most talented guy. But "work" was the answer to a lot of questions.

He remembers that now, when new wrinkles appear just as he's almost grasped the old ones.

"You kinda see it," he said, of watching the starters pull off Jones' newest brainstorm, "but you didn't, really ...

"Timmy (Chang) told me, just get in the film room extra, heading up to the game."

Because they want him to be ready. Because they just may need him before all this is over. Because there will be other games, other moments. Other defining chances to make hearts soar instead of break.

Which begs the question many average fans were asking themselves Saturday night.

Why do you drop passes?

"It always comes down to the fundamentals," Stennis said. Something tiny will always trip you up. And you never know it until it's too late. That's what happened to him when he was all alone and watching that ball come toward him. That's how he had the whole world in his grasp, and let it get away.

So where do great catches come from?

Stennis didn't hesitate this time. This was an answer he knew by heart.

"The hunger," he said.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at


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