UH’s Esera eager to lead
The converted defensive tackle is taking his senior season seriously
Ask Tala Esera about his hunger for a win against Nevada on Saturday, and the Hawaii left tackle will tell you that you are understating the issue.
"I'm starving," Esera said after yesterday's practice. "Put it that way."
Nevada at Hawaii
Where: Aloha Stadium
When: Saturday, 6:05 p.m. (Stadium gates open at 3 p.m.)
TV: Live (and rebroadcast at 10:30 p.m.) on pay per view (Dig. 256). Call 625-8100 on Oahu or (808) 643-2337 statewide. Delayed free on Sunday, 10 a.m. on KFVE (Ch. 5).
Parking: $5. Lot gates open at 2:30 p.m. Alternate parking at Leeward Community College (free, $2 shuttle), Kam Drive-In ($5, free shuttle). Shuttles are from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and approximately 1 hour after game ends. Parking also at Radford High School ($3, no shuttle). No tailgating at alternate parking sites.
Stadium security: Fanny packs, purses and backpacks and handbags will be permitted subject to check. No illegal contraband, weapons, fireworks, coolers, cans, bottles, air horns, noisemakers, umbrellas, outside food and or beverages are allowed inside the stadium gates.
Tickets: $5-38. Available online at hawaiiathletics.com, by phone at 944-2697 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., or at the Stan Sheriff Center, Aloha Stadium, UH Campus Center, RainbowTique at Ward Center and Windward Community College's OCET office.
Student buses: Four free buses will pick up students in front of Gateway House (2653 Dole Street), leave for the stadium at 4 p.m. and return 30 minutes after the game ends.
It wasn't always that way for the former defensive tackle from Kahuku.
After switching over from defense after his redshirt year, Esera caught on quickly and did a competent job for nearly two years as the main bodyguard for Tim Chang and then last season for Colt Brennan. But one of coach June Jones' favorite compound words, want-to, was rarely uttered in the same sentence with Esera's name.
But his stomach is growling now and Jones has noticed.
"Obviously he has some ability," the coach said. "He's progressed. He's worked harder this year."
Maybe it's because this is his last year, and Esera knows the scouts are watching closely.
Maybe it's because as leader of the team's Maori-warrior inspired haka dance, Esera is more pumped up at the start of games.
"That's when the beast comes out," slotback Davone Bess said.
Esera and senior safety Leonard Peters learned the haka last summer from relatives of Esera's wife, Nadia.
"I'm not Maori," Esera said. "But my daughters (Talia and Maia) are."
Esera's newfound leadership isn't confined to the pregame dance.
His trademark used to be that he didn't make mistakes -- the first priority for a left tackle, and his consistency earned him WAC second-team recognition last year. But now he's added passion to his game.
"I see a tremendous growth in Tala from last year," quarterback Colt Brennan said. "He's really stepped up and taken on the senior leadership thing.
"Most importantly it's what you see on film. (Against UNLV the coaches) gave him player of the week because he was flying around, he was doing so many things, so athletic and he was playing with so much intensity. Then the next two weeks he played even better."
As he is every game, the 6-foot-4, 305-pound Esera will be on the spot against the Wolf Pack. The left tackle is in many ways the key to pass protection schemes, and Nevada, which has 12 sacks in five games (including five by J.J. Milan) likes to attack from all directions.
"They move around a lot, swarming like bees. Watching the film, it looks like one of the toughest defensive lines we're going to face, I think. We're going to have to focus down, get the looks in," he said.
Esera is scheduled to graduate in December. Until then, he balances school, football and raising a family. He gets up a 5 a.m. each day to carpool from the North Shore with fellow Kahuku grads Leonard Peters and Inoke Funaki.
"It's really, really stressing me out right now. But you gotta put in the work," he said. "Hopefully I can reap the benefits later."
Reserves out: Reserve freshman outside linebacker Brashton Satele is out for at least two weeks with a hamstring he pulled on kickoff coverage drills Tuesday.
Satele had started at outside linebacker against Eastern Illinois, but it appears C.J. Allen-Jones reclaimed his old spot.
"He graded out the best," position coach George Lumpkin said of Allen-Jones.
Also, junior cornerback Ryan Keomaka is expected to miss at least one game with a sprained ankle suffered at yesterday's practice.
"We have some other players at cornerback, but his energy will be missed on special teams," defensive backs coach Rich Miano said.
Bess in the nation: Sophomore slotback Davone Bess was excited yesterday about being accepted into UH's communications program. But he was also happy about ranking first in Division I-A in pass receptions per game with 7.75.
"It feels real good, and it reinforces in me to just stay humble," he said. "Stay focused and push to stay No. 1, and try for even more."