PHOTO COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA
Caleb Spencer is among the Western Athletic Conference leaders in receptions per game and receiving yards per game.
Caleb plays for 2
The Nevada receiver takes his pride for the islands on the field with him
CALEB Spencer insists he's not the athlete of his family. He said that title goes to his kid brother, Gabe. Those who saw both star at Kamehameha might agree or disagree with Caleb's assessment. But now they will have to take Caleb's word for it.
Gabe, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound freshman safety, was ready to compete for playing time at Nevada this fall. He'd hoped to join, Caleb, a 6-foot, 180-pound junior receiver, as a Wolf Pack starter.
But persistent pain forced Gabe to see a doctor, and he learned he had three slipped discs in his back. Just like that, his college football career was over before it started.
"It's pretty serious. They told him it wouldn't be worth the risk to play," Caleb Spencer said.
"At the beginning, when I first started playing football, I was fulfilling my own dream. Now that my brother got hurt it makes me appreciate what I have. Now I'm playing for him, too."
Hawaii defensive lineman Karl Noa is one of Caleb Spencer's best friends. He said Spencer was always about "representing" on the playing field before the concept became a cliché, and even before Gabe got hurt.
"He not only plays for himself, he plays for his family. His roots run deep. A big part of his life is playing for his family," said Noa, who talks with Spencer, his former high school teammate, at least once a week by phone -- even this week, with the Warriors scheduled to play the Wolf Pack in Reno on Saturday.
"I'm not surprised with his success," Noa said. "His work ethic and dedication is far beyond the average Joe. His competitive nature is really high, no matter what it is. Pickup basketball, anything."
Spencer wanted to play at UH after one year at Palomar Junior College in 2003, but was only offered walk-on status while Nevada provided a scholarship. Still, he feels a surge of island pride when he plays football.
"I feel like I'm also playing for all the Polynesian kids, too," he said.
Spencer is Nevada's leading receiver with 5.86 catches per game (fifth in WAC) and 78.7 yards per game (fourth).
"Caleb has done a nice job for us. He's probably our most improved receiver. He's getting better each game," Nevada coach Chris Ault said.
Former UH cornerback Kim McCloud was Spencer's position coach before McCloud was re-assigned to defensive backs going into the season.
"He worked really hard in the weight room. He's gained another year of maturity, has a very good understanding of the offense, where he fits in it, what his role is," McCloud said. "He's bigger, stronger, faster. He got better overall. Since he's faster he can stretch the field more. He's stronger, so he's more durable. The best thing is he's young, so he will keep improving."
Spencer is just a junior, but has been getting some attention from pro scouts.
He's scheduled to graduate next year with a degree in secondary education, which he plans to put to use in the islands. He recently became engaged to Megan Kanoa, his high school sweetheart who also happens to be the sister of former UH offensive lineman Manly Kanoa.
While his college football tie is to Nevada, it's clear Caleb Spencer's real-life loyalty is to Hawaii.
"I hope to teach and coach back home and help open up some lines for other Polynesian kids," he said. "I would love to give back to (Kamehameha)."
Saturday's game between Hawaii and Nevada in Reno features many of the WAC's top receivers, including Kamehameha alumnus Caleb Spencer.
|Receptions per game
|1. Davone Bess, UH
|3. Ryan Grice-Mullen, UH
|5. Caleb Spencer, UN
|6. Nichiren Flowers, UN
|8. Ross Dickerson, UH
|Receiving yards per game
|2. Davone Bess, UH
|3. Ryan Grice-Mullen, UH
|4. Caleb Spencer, UN
|5. Nichiren Flowers, UN
|9. Ross Dickerson, UH
Island athletes making impact on Washington football team
Joe Lobendahan (Saint Louis '01) leads the Washington Huskies in total tackles with 73 (43 solo, 30 assisted). In eight games the senior inside linebacker has 5 1/2 tackles for a loss (19 yards), two sacks for 14 yards, has intercepted two passes and broken up two.
Teammate Wilson Afoa (Saint Louis '03), a sophomore nose tackle, has made 16 solo tackles, six assisted and been credited with 4 1/2 tackles for a loss (10 yards) in eight games.
Junior defensive tackle Donny Mateaki (Iolani '02) has seven solo and five assisted tackles in eight games for the Huskies. He also has 4 1/2 tackles for a loss (25 yards) and three sacks for 21 yards.
Brandon Ala (Kamehameha '02) has two solo and two assisted tackles in four games for Washington.
Kicker Jeremy Shea (Saint Louis '05) leads the 4-3 Alcorn State Braves in scoring with 31 points on 6-for-7 field goals and 13-for-15 PATs. He is averaging 47.3 yards on 26 kickoffs.
Also for Alcorn State, sophomore defensive tackle Oren Long (Saint Louis '04) has eight solo and six assisted tackles and two sacks.
Jacob Cadelinia has made eight solo tackles and assisted on five others in seven games for the 5-5 Mesa State Mavericks of the NCAA Division II Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. The junior outside linebacker from Campbell also has returned a punt for 28 yards.