Hoarsing around with McKnight
ADMIT it. You watched the election coverage the other night, and there was Randy Iwase, so hoarse it made you want to clear your own throat. You've seen this phenomenon before, at the end of every political campaign. Bob Dole, a few presidential elections ago, his voice more lost than his cause, in those final days; the man could hardly speak.
And you're thinking, how come this never happens to Hawaii offensive line and special teams graduate assistant Dennis McKnight?
Excellent question. Because politicians are world-class, champion talkers, and you would think if anyone could handle this it would be them. Yet every election at least a few of them seem to lose their voices at the end. And then, there's McKnight. He talks a lot. He yells a lot. He's LOUD. In capital letters. Just ask him.
"One," he says, "I don't hear well, so that makes me loud. Two, I'm from New York, originally, so, you know, it's loud. Back there with all the Paisanos and, you know. You just talk LOUD."
Yet his voice never wears down. He yells for about an hour and a half a day. Four hours on Saturdays.
(Maybe it's being the offensive line coach. Mike Cavanaugh used to yell a lot, too.)
But anyway, how is it that these politicians get hoarse every election when football coaches never do? Are they missing some orators' secret?
"They're hoarse," McKnight says, "because they speak with forked tongue." And then he launches into a rant that ... well, let's just say I'm guessing McKnight isn't a registered Democrat.
Anyway, you are right. It does turn out that even he is not immune.
"Oh, yes," McKnight says, "training camp, you know, the first couple of days you go hard you tear the vocal cords -- this year, it took me a while to get back to full bore."
Wow. Torn vocal cords. Now that's an injury. So, do O-line coaches have to take care of themselves the way singers do, with special exercises and teas and being very protective of your "instrument"?
"Oh, no!" McKnight says, horrified at the very thought. (Might as well ask him his feelings on the new Congress.)
But maybe he should. If Dennis McKnight lost his voice, where would he be?
And at first he agrees with this -- it's a big part of his aura, the loudness, with the big body, the energy. It's who he is. If he lost his voice?
But on second thought, "I think if tomorrow I became deaf I still think I'd be a good football coach," McKnight says. "Because the main thing I bring to the table is technique and try to get guys to think and anticipate. Everybody can draw lines and know plays and stuff and assignments, where to go. But the technique of getting the job done, the anticipating of leading the stance, studying film, all of those things. I think that's what I bring. So I think I do most of my work in the film room, actually."
Where it's quiet.
THE OTHER END of the spectrum is UH quarterbacks coach Dan Morrison. Morrison is one of the softer-spoken people you'll meet, but especially in football. Not only has the man never been in danger of losing his voice -- we might not know it if he did.
Does he even remember the last time he yelled at someone?
"Yeah, actually I can," he says. "I was head coach at Punahou. And one of the kids cheap-shotted someone and I was very upset."
Thirteen years ago. And he calls himself a football coach.
Yes, there's a lot of yelling in football, more than you'd think. Not to opponents, like in the movies. But the offensive linemen are always talking to each other. Defensive players are always making calls back and forth. Communication, right up to the snap. It's a requirement.
But the champion talker of them all, the guy you'd think would eventually lose his voice is, of course, the quarterback. Ask Colt Brennan. Not just the games. Watch any practice. The guy yells out 100 huts a day for five months.
(And he once talked about having a tired arm during two-a-days.)
If politicians lose their voices -- if even McKnight gets torn vocal cords -- what chance does he have?
"I think once football season comes around my voice just gets in shape just like my arm does," Brennan says
OK. His voice is in shape. I will buy that. He is an athlete. But that's regular shape. Now there's all this extra workload, with UH on this winning streak. Does he find himself getting a little hoarse doing all of these Heisman interviews?
Hold on, he has to laugh first.
"A little bit," he says. Laughs again. "Sometimes, I don't mind because it makes my voice sound deeper. I don't get teased as much by the O-line.
"I don't mind when my voice goes a little bit ragged," he says.