[ WARRIOR FOOTBALL ]
his shot at safety
The Arizona transfer follows in
the footsteps of his father
These are not the brightest days for Hawaii football, by far. But junior safety Landon Kafentzis has seen much worse.
As a second-year freshman with the 2002 Arizona Wildcats, Kafentzis was part of a team divided from within. Arizona went 4-8, and it wasn't very much fun for anyone. Nearly half of the team complained en masse to the university president about coach John Mackovic, saying he was aloof and that he verbally abused them. Mackovic ended up apologizing to the team.
Part of the problem was Mackovic had replaced Dick Tomey, the former UH coach who was popular with the players he had recruited, including Kafentzis. Kafentzis, a star of a state championship high school team in Richland, Wash., committed to Arizona largely because of the experience his father, Mark, and four uncles had playing for Tomey in Hawaii.
But Tomey stepped down just weeks after Kafentzis chose Arizona.
Kafentzis redshirted in 2001. By the 2002 season football had become something it never was before for him and many of his Wildcats teammates -- drudgery.
"Everybody was always down. There was nothing positive there. It was just a bad situation," Kafentzis said.
Kafentzis spoke after UH practice yesterday. While the Warriors situation isn't very good on the field -- they are 3-4 and 3-3 in conference, coming off a 69-3 loss, riddled by injuries and in danger of their first losing season in four years -- the team is solid internally, Kafentzis said. There is no similarity to Arizona in 2002.
"It's definitely different," Kafentzis said. "The coaches, everything is better. The team gets along better. It's night and day between the programs. Obviously, we're going through a rough time now, but I think -- actually, I know -- we'll pull out of it.
"When you have this many athletes that are this competitive, you can't help but stay positive and want to win. No matter what happened last week, you want to come out and try to win. If guys didn't care, they'd be looking for excuses to get off the field. We have injured guys trying to play. We just want to win."
That attitude is part of the reason Kafentzis gets his first start as a Warrior on Saturday against Louisiana Tech (4-4, 4-1). Another is that no one from among Matt Manuma, Keao Monteilh, Lamar Broadway and Kafentzis has shown he is better enough than the other three to take over full-time for former starter Lono Manners. Manners is out for the season with a broken ankle.
"We're giving them all an equal opportunity and he's up," said defensive backs coach Rich Miano, whose UH playing career as a safety intersected with those of three of Kafentzis' uncles. "Landon was a little behind in knowledge of the system, but I knew he'd get there because he's conscientious. He reminds me exactly of his father and his uncles. He loves the violent part of football, and that gets him the respect of his peers and coaches. He has a lot of pride in being tough, in being a football player. He works hard in the weight room."
Mark Kafentzis was in Boise on Friday to see UH lose 69-3. He also saw his son make a tackle and break up a pass.
"It was hard, especially sitting there with so many Boise State fans. In the Rainbow defenses I played for in the past, I don't care what happened, you weren't going to out-hit us, out-aggressive us. We would motivate each other by seeing someone really lay one on. That stuff is contagious," the father said. "I'm proud of the way Landon played. He kept going out there and playing hard."
The father said he was also pleased by the way his son handled the situation two years ago in Arizona.
"He never got caught up in all of it. He understood it, and he wasn't happy about it, but he didn't go stirring the hornet's nest," Mark Kafentzis said. "When I look back on my time in the NFL (five seasons) I was sometimes unhappy with decisions by coaches, but I knew I couldn't show it.
"In one sense, I'm happy Landon had the opportunity to go to Hawaii," said Kafentzis, whose other son, Tyson, is a freshman linebacker at UH. "I knew how the fans in Hawaii treated us, and knew his style of play would be appreciated there."
Landon Kafentzis said his father told him to "stay positive" after Friday's game.
"It was definitely hard for me, having him at the game and seeing us lose like that. All you can do is let that one go and concentrate on the next one. ... It's all you can do."