Bhonapha misses UH, but is a Bronco now
The former UH defensive back and graduate assistant is head of football operations at Boise
BOISE, Idaho » Boise State director of football operations Keith Bhonapha left Hawaii with so much knowledge, it affected the Warriors this week in their preparations for the Broncos.
UH coach June Jones told reporters that he had to change the defensive calls because of the former Warriors player.
When told of this yesterday outside the Broncos football offices, the former UH defensive back and graduate assistant coach wasn't quite sure how to respond at first.
Then Bhonapha rubbed his hands together and grinned.
"Ha ha," he said, in a low, diabolical voice.
He still loves Hawaii and the Warriors -- so much that he met up with his former UH colleagues at the team hotel last night. But Bhonapha wears orange and blue now, and his paychecks come from BSU.
"Don't get me wrong, I think about Hawaii a lot," said Bhonapha, who was at UH five years as a player and three as a GA. He also played in the 1999 game vs. Boise State, the last time Hawaii beat the Broncos.
"I got here in March, and by July I was back in Hawaii on vacation," Bhonapha said. "Sometimes I think I miss Hawaii more than I miss California (where he is from). That coaching staff helped me grow a lot. They kind of looked out for me when I was a GA, taking me out to eat, things like that. Coaching relationships are like family relationships."
Although he departed Manoa with the signals, he left the Warriors with a gift that keeps giving. Make that keeps receiving.
Bhonapha played a key role in getting Davone Bess, a freshman All-American last year, to accept a scholarship from UH (beating out Boise State, among others). They both went to Skyline High School in Oakland.
"This has been an interesting week. All the offensive players have been asking me, what about this guy, what about that guy?" Bhonapha said. "Coach (Justin) Wilcox, the (BSU) defensive coordinator, he was in there talking about Davone. I said, 'You know, I recruited him, right?' He looked at me and gave me a look and said, 'Thanks.'"
Other than that, the Broncos seem pretty happy with Bhonapha.
"Never heard of him," said BSU coach Chris Petersen when Bhonapha's name was brought up in a teleconference this week. Petersen was obviously joking, since their offices are next to each other's, and Petersen leans on Bhonapha heavily for everything from organizing clinics to taking care of recruits' visits.
"He's doing great," Petersen said. "He's a great person and works his tail off. We're fortunate to have him."
Bhonapha describes the work ethic at BSU as a grind and very detail-oriented but also said Petersen is a boss who realizes his people have lives outside the office.
"If you have something to do, like, for the older guys, watching their kid's football game, he has no problem with you arranging your schedule. This is a good place for not only building that team camaraderie, but coaches' camaraderie, too."
Bhonapha also enjoys good rapport with many of the BSU players. Some of it has to do with being closer in age (he is 26) to the players than most of the coaches. Some of it has to do with shared ethnicity with African-American players, at a school where only 254 of 18,876 students are black and a state where minorities are rare.
"Let's face it, being black in Idaho is different. Even when you go on campus, you see that difference," Bhonapha said. "Being able to feel like they have somebody who's older, but not too much older, who's been through a college program and knows how it is. Somebody like myself who has the same background inner-city-wise who they can talk to and bridge the cultural gap."
He said growing up in Oakland, going to college in Hawaii and living in Boise gives him a wide perspective.
"One conception is people in Hawaii hate white people. ... I lived there, so I can say all of Hawaii isn't like that, like all of Idaho doesn't hate blacks, and all of Oakland isn't bad. I like getting people to understand that," Bhonapha said. "Once (blacks) come to Idaho they realize, 'Oh it's not bad, there's actually a downtown. There's clubs I can go to.' "
Two BSU assistants, Marcel Yates and Wes Nurse, are black. Another, Viliami Tuivai, is Polynesian.
Yesterday, Boise State was among six schools from 26 Division I and I-AA that hired new head coaches in the offseason that received an "F" from the Black Coaches Association for its hiring process. Petersen, who is white, was hired to replace Dan Hawkins when Hawkins left for Colorado after last season. Petersen was previously BSU offensive coordinator.
Part of the reason for the failing grade was BSU did not return a survey to the BCA.
"I don't know if that grade is deserved, but I do know this is a great staff here," Bhonapha said. "I would like to see more African-American coaches, since the majority of the players are African-American. They need more coaches to relate to."
Hawaii has one black football coach, outside linebackers coach George Lumpkin. Assistants Cal Lee, Ron Lee and Wes Suan are of Asian and Polynesian descent.
Bhonapha is considering a career track in sports administration, with a goal of becoming a college athletic director or a pro football executive. He might end up being the guy doing the hiring someday.
"At this stage of my career I'm handling so much administration-wise. I'm really looking into the AD, administration-type role. I'm really interested in that," he said. "I miss being on the field, doing my workouts with the guys like I did in Hawaii. But I'm enjoying what I'm doing. I'm dealing with marketing, compliance and I think I'm going to have a strong background either way I go, if it's administration or back onto the field.
"I feel fortunate that I've been exposed to so many great coaches, at Hawaii and here," Bhonapha said.
Tech's Johnson burns Virginia
ATLANTA » Calvin Johnson caught the two longest touchdown passes of his Georgia Tech career and set a personal best with 165 yards receiving, leading the Yellow Jackets (3-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) past feeble Virginia 24-7 last night.
Burning the Cavaliers (1-3, 0-1) twice when they attempted single-coverage on the star receiver, Reggie Ball hooked up with Johnson on touchdown passes of 58 and 66 yards to give the Yellow Jackets a commanding lead by early in the second half.