FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Former UH quarterback Tim Chang watched Christian Akana of Kamehameha during passing drills yesterday.
Chang is focused on the future
The Saint Louis and UH alumnus is in town helping youths before his next shot at the NFL
Having eased himself into one of the few shady spots available on a sun-drenched afternoon in Hawaii Kai, Tim Chang cheerfully obliges every youngster looking for an autograph or a picture with the NCAA record-holder.
The former Saint Louis and University of Hawaii quarterback is enjoying a break during the first day of the Power 4 Sports Youth Football Camp at Kaiser High School as he explains his motivation for devoting his weekend to the three-day clinic.
"They're the future," Chang says as he signs the back of a camper's T-shirt, "and they need to know that anything is possible."
Exploring the possibilities is what Chang's football career is about these days.
After participating as an instructor at the inaugural camp, the NCAA's all-time leader in passing yards will soon resume his quest for a job in the NFL.
Chang is among four quarterbacks currently on the Philadelphia roster and will head back to the mainland on July 20 for training camp.
It'll be his second shot at earning a spot in the league after being cut during training camp last season.
"I just don't take it for granted and make use of all the opportunities I get," he said.
Donovan McNabb remains the cornerstone of the Eagles offense, and Philadelphia signed former Pro Bowler Jeff Garcia in the offseason. Veteran Koy Detmer also returns, but Chang said he's not focused on his status on the depth chart entering training camp.
"I don't know and I don't ask," he said. "It's just going out there and throwing.
"It's amazing and all I'm doing is learning. If I can just learn from the best in the game, all-pro quarterbacks, and take the things they teach me, I'm going to be all right."
Chang recently completed his first season in NFL Europe and is preparing for training camp this summer, both humbled and motivated by last year's frustration.
Following record-setting careers in high school and college, Chang's phone went silent during the two-day 2005 NFL Draft. He signed a free-agent contract with the Arizona Cardinals. He was cut during camp and had a brief look by the Detroit Lions before being released.
A season away from the sport forced Chang to re-assess his career path.
"It was gut-check time, basically," he said. "It was finding out who I really was, what I really wanted to do, and how I'm going to go and get it.
"When you're as close as you are to your dream and it doesn't happen, then you really have to ask yourself, 'Is it really for me?' And I know I believe in myself, I believe in my capabilities. No matter what anybody else says I'm going to believe in myself. And that's the point we try to get across to these kids."
Chang's regrouping effort included contacting trainer Chad Ikei, who organized this weekend's camp at Kaiser.
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Tim Chang says he learned how to play quarterback in the NFL during his time in NFL Europe.
With just a few weeks to get Chang ready for the NFL Europe season, Ikei pushed him through a series of torturous workouts to sculpt a leaner, stronger version of the 6-foot-2 207-pounder.
"His work ethic really improved a lot and he's hungry," Ikei said. "He never was serious about his lifting regimen, about his eating regimen.
"So when he came, he was 19 percent body fat, and after three weeks he was down to 9 percent. That shows how hard he focused on eating right and busting his butt."
Ikei, a 1989 Kaiser graduate, has operated his own training facility in Scottsdale, Ariz., for the past two years, building a client base of NFL players.
He gained another advocate when Chang dedicated himself to Ikei's high-intensity program.
"His training's not for everybody," Chang said. "The guys who come in, we're just waiting for them to puke just lifting weights.
"Because I was so hungry to play the game, I'd do anything. Chad told me to eat this and this; this is what you're lifting and how you're doing it, and I did it. ... I noticed (the impact of the training) in my overall being as a person. Emotionally, physically, mentally, he tests all those things. Once I got there, it all made sense to me, what I wanted to do. I wasn't throwing up in those workouts for nothing, I was doing it for a reason."
Chang went on to pass for 659 yards and four touchdowns for the Rhein Fire, relishing the opportunity to continue playing and refine his game in NFL Europe.
"I learned so much, I got to practice for four months doing the things that I'm going to be doing in the NFL," he said. "I was in the shotgun for five years (at UH), so things like handing off the ball, making the reads out of different sets, getting under center, those things are definitely things I needed to work on."
Chang's work with Ikei was part of the inspiration for this weekend's camp. The clinics drew a group of about 70 8- to 13-year-olds on Friday and focused on high school players yesterday and today at Kaiser.
Chang, who has a young son of his own (Dillon is almost 2), hopes his experiences can help guide some of the youngsters flocking around him during the camp.
"I think I can just talk about the things I've been through, things I've learned from great coaches," he said, "to work hard, whatever you want to become ... try to be the best at what you do."