UH SPORTS CIRCLE OF HONOR
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
At the Circle of Honor luncheon, Dick Ueoka, Don Botelho, Charlie Araki and Hartwell Freitas shared stories from the fabled 1955 UH football team that beat Nebraska 6-0 in Lincoln. CLICK FOR LARGE
Circle of Honor adds '55 'Bows, 2 others
The football team is known for winning at Nebraska
The years have slowed them down a bit, but no one could catch their memories of some 51 years ago. How could anyone forget beating Nebraska in football ... in Lincoln ... when outnumbered 100-25?
Certainly not the four members of the 1955 Rainbows who shared their stories during yesterday's UH Sports Circle of Honor luncheon at the Bank of Hawaii in downtown Honolulu. The football team, former UH offensive lineman Joe Onosai and the late statistician and benefactor Toshio "Bob" Nagatani will officially be inducted as the 25th class at halftime of tonight's basketball game between Hawaii and Idaho at the Stan Sheriff Center.
In what is considered one of the biggest upsets in college football, the Rainbows defeated the Cornhuskers 6-0 on a hot and humid Saturday in September. The stunning outcome came less than a year after Nebraska rolled over Hawaii 50-0 at Honolulu Stadium, many of the 1955 team also playing in the 1954 rout.
"They were surprised," said running back Hartwell Freitas, who scored the game's lone touchdown on a 1-yard plunge in the fourth quarter. "I played the year
before when we got beat. All I could say was, 'Now you guys know how we felt.'
"What I remember is Coach (the late Hank Vasconcellos) said, 'Well, Harty, get in there and take it over them.' I did. Then I told Spud (Botelho), 'You'd better not miss the extra point. If you miss it, people are only going to remember me.' "
It was the only missed extra point by kicker Don "Spud" Botelho in his four-year career.
"It was a routine kick," said Botelho, the former Mid-Pacific athletic director and Pac-Five football coach. "I just missed it, went far right. But I figured if I didn't make it, we didn't need it.
"It didn't bother me that I missed because I thought we would still win. It was a great, scoreless game until Hartwell scored. I believe (Nebraska) never passed the 50-yard line until the fourth, when they started to pass instead of run."
The next week, Hawaii lost at San Jose State 34-0. Few remember that.
"It took 9 hours for the transpacific flight, 8 hours to get to Lincoln," said team co-captain Dick Ueoka, who played on both the offensive and defensive line. "We got there and they greeted us. They gave each one of us an ear of corn.
"They said, 'Thanks for coming all this way for a scrimmage.' We were 50-point underdogs. We walked into the stadium and there were 100 of them, lined up in red, on one knee. They tried to intimidate us and it backfired."
Also in attendance yesterday was UH associate dean Charles Araki, who also played both ways on the line at right tackle, next to guard Ueoka. Araki was inducted into the SCOH as an individual in 1990.
Out of the 25 team members, 22 are still living. Seventeen are expected at tonight's ceremony.
Representing Vasconcellos is his son, Mike, the former Chaminade athletic director.
"My dad took games one at a time," Vasconcellos said. "This was his biggest win, the game that put him on the map."
Onosai, an offensive lineman for the Rainbows from 1983 to '86, gave an emotional speech about growing up in Kuhio Park Terrace, "where a lot of kids think they couldn't go to college. I was able to do it because of coaches like Don Botelho (Onosai's coach at Pac-Five) who believed in me when I didn't believe in myself."
Onosai, an assistant pastor, athletic director and coach at Word of Life, was third in the World's Strongest Man contest and a two-time national winner in powerlifting. He's also known for his humor.
"I was really surprised when I was told of this honor," Onosai said. "I was under the impression that it was only for people who were really old. I don't know what they're trying to tell me."
Nagatani's widow, Tricia, and son Anthony were also in attendance yesterday.
"It's truly a shame that he is not here to enjoy this," Anthony Nagatani said.
"We're very honored," Tricia added. "I wish he could have been here to see this."
Bob Nagatani was a statistician for Hawaii football and basketball for 40 years. He headed a football stat crew that won national recognition as the best the first two years the award was presented.
The Harvard graduate also was big on education. He donated $1 million to build the Nagatani Academic Center at the UH athletic complex in honor of his parents, Chika and Hisazo.
With the induction of the 25th class, the UH Sports Circle of Honor has eight teams and 79 individuals.