DAVID SLUTKA / UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN|
Offensive line coach Jim Hueber says Donovan Raiola, left, has "grown up as a player, and become a more physical player. "He takes pride in doing it right."
Center of Attention
Donovan Raiola is one reason
Wisconsin is the 20th-ranked
team in the nation
Nine games into his sophomore season for the University of Wisconsin football team, center Donovan Raiola has:
>> Been selected on the midseason All-America team of SI.com (the Internet presence of Sports Illustrated magazine);
>> Become a favorite of Midwestern sportswriters and been quoted in sports pages from Memphis to Seattle for his remarks about Ohio State;
>> Put his own stamp, or stomp, on a Wisconsin stadium tradition, "inventing" the Raiola Stomp.
The reaction of Raiola, a 2001 Kamehameha Schools graduate from Kaimuki, is, "That's pretty cool," "No kidding," and "I'm having fun," in that order.
Wisconsin fell to 6-3 and probably out of the Rose Bowl race after losing to Northwestern yesterday, but remains a formidable force in the Big Ten.
The Badgers rank second in the Big Ten in rushing and Raiola, starting for the first season, has become the outspoken leader of the offensive line.
"Donovan gets wound up pretty good," head coach Barry Alvarez said. "I really like that. I think those other guys are following him. You talk about a fireball, that's him."
Offensive line coach Jim Hueber says Raiola "has given them all a personality."
That was never more evident than during Wisconsin's 17-10 upset of then-No. 3 Ohio State on Oct. 11, the most-viewed game on ESPN this season.
Ohio State linebacker Robert Reynolds earned a permanent niche in college football's Hall of Dishonor when he tried to choke Wisconsin quarterback Jim Sorgi in a pileup.
Raiola was one of two Badgers who pulled Reynolds off Sorgi. Raiola later told reporters: "After that, I lost all respect for any of them -- the whole bench, the coaches, whoever was on the sideline, who was in the game. I lost respect for them all."
His quote circled the mainland many times over in the following week, appearing in newspapers large and small. He stands by it still.
Raiola acknowledges that he becomes very intense come game time.
"When I step on the field on Saturday and I see the opponent, something comes out of me that normally you don't see off the field because I'm pretty laid back off the field," he says.
But even during the heat of a game (one columnist wrote that Raiola "burns white hot for four quarters"), Raiola finds room for fun.
It is a Wisconsin tradition that the student section stands and jumps as the band plays House of Pain's hip-hop hit "Jump Around" between the third and fourth quarters at Camp Randall Stadium.
"That's the most fun I have," Raiola said, "watching them jump around."
In the North Carolina game Sept. 20 in Madison, he did more than watch, he joined in, stomping in place in the huddle with exaggerated leg and arm movements -- like a Polynesian war dance.
"He told us that was Hawaiian-style," said starting left tackle Morgan Davis.
Columnist Mike Lucas dubbed it "The Raiola Stomp."
"I really don't realize what I do. I just do it," Raiola said.
Line coach Hueber says Raiola, 6-feet-2 and 285 pounds, is much more than an uninhibited and vocal leader.
"He has grown up as a player, and become a more physical player," Hueber says. "He takes pride in doing it right."
As center, Raiola makes the blocking calls for pass protection and Hueber is impressed at how quickly he became good at it.
"I want to show the people around the nation that we have good players in Hawaii," Raiola says.
Raiola's brother, Dominic, and the family's close friend, Olin Kreutz, both Saint Louis graduates, "came out" of Nebraska and Washington, respectively, after their junior seasons and are starting centers in the NFL.
Diplomatically, Donovan Raiola won't talk about whether he will do the same, but he does acknowledge that pro football is his goal.
"I've got to keep getting better," he says.
Also Badgers: Wisconsin's No. 1 punter for three seasons has been junior R.J. Morse (Iolani '01) of Waipahu. Morse has averaged 41.3 yards this season and has put nine punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line. He has had 13 career punts of more than 50 yards. ... Sophomore Lyle Maiava (Saint Louis '01) is a reserve defensive tackle. ... Freshman James Kamoku, the first athlete from Kona's Kealakehe High to win a Division I scholarship, is a scout team defensive back and will redshirt, Wisconsin spokesman Brian Lucas said.
BACK TO TOP
Mateaki back to old position
Donny Mateaki has forsaken glamour for grunt. The result is that he is in a starting role for the University of Washington football team as a redshirt freshman.
Mateaki made all-state as a defensive tackle at Iolani School, but he went to Washington in 2002 to play defensive end.
"That's the glamour position -- where all the big-time athletes play," he said.
After a redshirt season that was taken up mainly by shoulder surgery rehab, Mateaki found this year that he wasn't suited to pass-rush from the outside.
"It was a big adjustment for me," he said. "My timing was off."
Defensive ends, he explained, "come off edge, turn the corner, meet the (offensive) guy at a different time.
"On the inside, you make contact off the bat; I'm more comfortable with that than running up-field."
Washington coaches saw that, too, and suggested that Mateaki go back to his old position, where brute strength is more important than quickness.
"I thought they meant in spring ball, but they moved me the following Monday." And he started the next game against Oregon State, helping Washington upset the then-No. 22 Beavers 38-17.
"I was happy," Mateaki said. "I felt like I was in high school again."
Now the 6-foot-5, 265-pound Mateaki needs to beef up to defensive tackle weight.
Other Huskies: Starting junior linebacker Joe Lobendahn (Saint Louis '01) tore an anterior cruciate ligament in the opening game at Ohio State, had surgery and will make this his redshirt year. ... 320-pound senior Francisco Tipoti (McKinley '99) "plays regularly" as second-team offensive tackle and redshirt freshman defensive end Brandon Ala (Kamehameha '02 of Waianae) "plays sparingly," a UW spokesman said. ... Freshman defensive end Wilson Afoa (Saint Louis '03) is redshirting.
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