HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
Moniz born to be a Mule
He passed for close to 3,000 yards as a sophomore and for more than 1,000 in a shortened junior year
THERE was a lot going on at Hugh Yoshida Stadium last Saturday night when Leilehua and Mililani renewed their rivalry.
The organized chaos of the concession stand, fathers and sons discussing everything from the illegal participation rule to a well-timed slant, school bands battling for decibel superiority. On the grass patch at the far corner of the field, a dozen youngsters were playing pick-up football along the 45-degree slope of the hill alongside the stadium's concrete bleachers.
Amidst all the hustle and bustle there was a pretty good football game going on, too, with Bryant Moniz standing center stage.
Each time the senior quarterback settled in under center the home fans settled down, because they knew that a touchdown is never more than a play away with Moniz in the pocket. On that night, Moniz delivered time after time, passing for three touchdowns and 237 yards as Leilehua handled the Trojans 23-14.
In what amounts to just more than a season-and-a-half, the cool-headed, hot-handed Moniz has established himself as one of the top prep passers of his generation, throwing for an incredible 4,600 yards and 47 touchdowns to date.
Moniz exploded onto the prep football scene as a sophomore in 2004, when he passed for a jaw-dropping 2,879 yards and 27 touchdowns while leading the Mules through an improbable run that ended in the Division I state championship game.
Although a broken collarbone limited him to only 13 quarters of action last year, Moniz still managed 1,018 passing yards. This season, Moniz has already thrown for 711 yards and nine touchdowns against just two interceptions as Leilehua has again earned a spot in the Star-Bulletin Top-10 rankings.
AT THE HELM of Leilehua's hybrid offense, the self-admitted student of the game has memorized more than 100 plays, and spends his free time watching tapes, college games and finding other ways to better his prolific passing skills.
"My only criticism of Bryant is that he is a senior," said head coach Nolan Tokuda. "I don't know if there will ever be another Bryant Moniz for me. He has been incredible, and I will really miss having him here, but I know he is bound for far greater things in life."
Moniz's stepfather, Steven Smithe, compares the current Mules star to the top Leilehua quarterback of the previous generation, former University of Hawaii star Alex Kaloi, the last Mules signal-caller to play major college football. And he would know. Smithe was often on the receiving end of Kaloi's passes as a split end for coach Hugh Yoshida's Mules.
"They're very similar," Smithe said. "I just spoke to Alex at one of the other games, and he saw some similarities, too. They're both really smart and they know where to put the ball when they need to get something done."
After spending the summer at camps on the mainland, Moniz has drawn interest from California, Oregon, Utah, Colorado, Washington, Auburn and even a letter from Notre Dame. As of yet, he has not fielded an offer, despite establishing himself as an academic qualifier through the NCAA clearinghouse.
THROUGH IT ALL, Moniz remains calm and collected beyond his years, because he knows he belongs. With his résumé, he certainly belongs on any field, but his sense of belonging at Yoshida Stadium goes far beyond his ever-growing stat sheet.
Moniz's induction to Leilehua athletics came while he was still in diapers. Grandfather Bill Smithe was the school's athletic director and spent time as basketball, track and football coach during his 17 years at Leilehua. He left in 1969 to run the Oahu Interscholastic Association, which he did for nearly two decades before his passing in 1991 due to a form of Lou Gehrig's Disease.
"Bryant was just a little guy back then, he might have been four years old," said Steven Smithe. "But he was the one pushing Grandpa around in his wheelchair, helping brush his teeth, feed him and taking care of him. We'd often find him sitting in Grandpa's lap watching sumo. That was their thing."
AT THE AGE OF 7, Bryant was the ball boy for the Leilehua girls soccer team, coached by his uncle, Matt Smithe. During football season, Bryant would attend games with his dad. Family members say he was born to be a Mule.
Uncle Michael Smithe was an all-stater for the football Mules, while Matt starred in football, track and soccer as well. Moniz's younger brother, Bronson, is a freshman on Leilehua's JV football squad this year, with youngest brother Brandon soon to follow.
"We bleed Green and Gold, there's no other way to say it," Moniz said. "I remember going to the away-games with Uncle Matt and singing the alma mater on the bus home. And I was always here with dad watching football games, even though I always ended up playing football on that hill. I take a lot of pride in playing for Leilehua. My grandpa helped build this field. My dad, my uncles, my brother, they all played football here."
"Like everyone else out here, I'd love to play college ball, and in the NFL someday," he said. "But when my playing days are done, I'm coming back here to live, to coach this team. I want every player who puts on the Leilehua uniform to feel the pride that I do. Mule pride."