CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Ohio State quarterback Justin Zwick was stuck on the bench behind Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith.
Hula Bowl means much to Zwick
Ohio State's backup quarterback will finally get a chance to show what he can do
To say that Justin Zwick's career at Ohio State didn't go the way he planned would be putting it nicely.
Cornerstone Bancard Hula Bowl
When: Tomorrow, 3:35 p.m.
Where: Aloha Stadium
Tickets: Call (800) 971-1232
Tickets are still available for tomorrow's 61st Hula Bowl at Aloha Stadium.
General admission tickets are $30. There is no charge for children 3-and-under.
There is a swap meet tomorrow, from 6 a.m. until 1 p.m. Parking for the game opens at 1 p.m. for a $5 fee.
The stadium gates Nos. 2, 4, 5 & 8 and concessions open at 1:30 p.m. Seating is on the orange and blue levels of the Makai, Mauka and South sections.
Tickets are available by phone (1-877-750-4400) and the Internet (www.ticketmaster.com). The stadium box office opens tomorrow at 9 a.m.
A Parade All-American after throwing for more than 10,000 yards and 112 touchdowns in high school, Zwick enrolled at Ohio State in 2002 with visions of Heisman Trophies and national championships.
The Buckeyes did win a national championship his freshman year, and an Ohio State quarterback did win a Heisman Trophy his senior season, but while Troy Smith earned all the honors and accolades as the Buckeyes starting quarterback this season, Zwick worked just as hard, hoping for a shot to show he, too, can be an NFL quarterback.
That shot -- possibly his only shot -- will be in tomorrow's 61st Cornerstone Bancard Hula Bowl, as Zwick looks to lead the Aina team past the Kai team in the college all-star game at Aloha Stadium.
"This is my chance to show I can play," Zwick said. "I was in a situation where I got stuck behind a Heisman Trophy winner, but that's life, and you've got to deal with what comes your way."
Zwick entered his sophomore season as the starter, ahead of Smith, and led the Buckeyes to a 3-3 record in his first six games before injuring his shoulder. He would only start one more time in his career, the 2004 Alamo Bowl, and that was only because Smith was suspended for the game.
"Initially it was very tough getting over the fact that I might not start," Zwick said. "Any guy that goes to a place like Ohio State expects to play and wants to be out there, and I was the same way."
After competing for the starting job and not getting it prior to his junior season, Zwick entered his senior year knowing from the outset that he would be the backup. With Smith in charge, Ohio State was ranked No. 1 in the preseason AP and coaches polls, and stayed there the entire season before Monday's stunning loss to Florida in the BCS National Championship Game.
"When you play a good team and you don't bring your best to the table, they're going to take it to you, and that's what Florida did," Zwick said. "As Troy said after the game, it was just meant to be that way."
When practices began on Wednesday, Zwick was the only one out of eight Buckeyes and Gators selected to play in the game that was on the field. While the rest of them were still in Phoenix, Zwick was already looking ahead to doing what needs to be done in order to take that step to the next level.
"I probably have more to prove than most out here because nobody has really seen what I can do the last couple of years," Zwick said. "This is big for me, but at the same time, I'm having fun with it."
Cohen enjoying life as a champ: Despite being unable to practice with an injured ankle that will keep him out of tomorrow's game, Florida defensive tackle Joe Cohen is enjoying life as a champion.
"Doing anything as a champion is just that much better," he said. "I'd clean my mom's yard right now and I'd still feel good about it."
While Urban Meyer is getting all the credit as coach of the Gators, 22 of the 24 starters in Monday's game were recruited by former coach Ron Zook, including Cohen, who believes Zook should share in that credit as well.
"You have to give (Zook) thanks for bringing us to Florida and giving us that opportunity," he said. "He came in and got us, and Coach Meyer finished off the job."
A special Kai haka: As practice ended yesterday, the Kai team gathered around midfield and watched as Leonard Peters and the rest of the Hawaii players selected for the game starting teaching the team a version of the popular Polynesian dance the haka.
"They look good, man -- all of them are digging it," Peters said. "I thought for sure that some of them wouldn't want to do it, but they all wanted to do it. They approached me and asked me about the haka, so I tried to put something together that didn't have that much words."
Peters, Mel Purcell, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Nate Ilaoa, Reagan Mauia, Dane Uperesa and Ross Dickerson spent about 10 minutes leading the team through the first half of the dance, and they plan on teaching them the second half of it after practice today.
"The custom stuff being over here in Hawaii is one of the best parts about coming here, and it's an honor to be able to do, or try to do, that dance," Colorado's Bryce MacMartin said.
Even Kai coach Pat Hill plans on giving it a try.
"I might be the slowest guy out there, but I'll be doing it," Hill said. "I think it's a real neat deal what the University of Hawaii does with that."
Whether or not they actually perform the dance on game day remains to be seen.
"We'll see how many people buy tickets to the game," Peters said. "If we have a big crowd, we might do it for them."
Ilaoa, though, says it's a done deal.
"Hey man, we don't practice plays out here we're not going to run," he said. "Of course we're going to do it."