HAWAII GROWN REPORT
COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO
Senior linebacker Jordon Dizon ranks 17th in tackles with 280 in the history of the Colorado football program.
BOULDER, Colo. » After considering Jordon Dizon's three years of work at the University of Colorado, one conclusion is inevitable:
Time flies when you're making tackles.
The 6-foot, 225-pound inside linebacker from Waimea High has compiled a list of feats few expected he'd complete upon arriving in Boulder. In the 2004 opener, he became Colorado's sixth true freshman, and first inside linebacker, to start. He has earned honorable mention All-Big 12 three times. Dizon's teammates have voted him one of Colorado's three captains for 2007, a responsibility he embraces.
Dizon did not come to Boulder amid great fanfare. But since moving from safety one practice in August 2004, he's positioned himself to become one of the best linebackers in program history, which at Colorado, is saying something special. All of this, and it seems like he just arrived on campus the other day.
"Oh yeah, my mom and I were just talking about it, and she was saying how fast it's gone by," Dizon said. "And I was saying last year flew by, sophomore year flew by, freshman year went by a little slower. I'm a senior now. It's time to do what I have to do."
"It doesn't feel like it's his fourth year," Colorado linebacker coach Brian Cabral said. "But he's accomplished a lot.
"He's very natural, and that's very unusual. He's grown a lot in the position, but he's probably grown the most in leadership."
If Dizon approaches the 137 stops he made in 2006, he'll finish among Colorado's top five all-time tacklers. That list includes former NFL stars Matt Russell, Greg Biekert and Ted Johnson.
Dizon enters 2007 with 280 tackles, the 17th most in program history. He's expected to be on the preseason watch list for the Butkus Award, which honors the nation's best linebacker. Russell won it in 1996.
On Monday, he was named to the 2007 Lott Trophy watch list, which honors college football's defensive impact player of the year.
Of more importance to Colorado is Dizon's emergence as a vocal leader. Dizon admits when he was younger, he struggled to communicate in Boulder and relied upon his play to speak for him. Now, Colorado coaches demand he lead in every way imaginable, especially to Colorado's other players from Hawaii, which include Kahuku's B.J. Beatty, Damien Memorial's Michael Sipili and R.J. Brown of Punahou. Brown also was voted team captain this winter.
"When you become a captain, it's pretty much the same responsibility that comes with being a leader, except you have to be more vocal," Dizon said. "You have to stand up to people, you have to be able to tell what's wrong, what's right.
"I'm not really an outspoken guy, but I'm going to have to be. It's definitely a change."
Colorado cornerback Terrence Wheatley said Dizon's assertiveness was obvious in 2004. Dizon refused to stay in the background, Wheatley said, opting instead to jump to the front of each line, each class, each drill.
"Most freshman won't say much," Wheatley said. "They'll kind of hide in the back. ... He may not have known what he was doing, but he was going to at least try it."
Now, Cabral said, Dizon is the guy who riles up flat teammates. At one spring practice last week, things were sluggish and quiet. Dizon started harping, demanding everyone wake up. His teammates responded immediately.
"It's funny ... the more vocal he is, the more he's starting to like it," Cabral said. "It's something that's not him, but at the same time, it's starting to become him."
If Dizon is experiencing a change, it won't be his first. For example, he majors in Economics, and he's on pace to graduate next May. The degree requires lots of math, or as Dizon put it, "It's all calculus." Dizon knew little about calculus when he declared.
"When I started it, I figured I'd better get good in math," Dizon said. "It wasn't always my strong point."
The culture shock for any Hawaii athlete who moves to Colorado can be jolting, especially with the snow and food. Blizzards, like the two that buried Boulder in December, have less impact on Dizon as they once did. He still misses certain dishes, but he has finally discovered a little place that offers decent kalua pig. Who cares if he has to drive an hour to a southeastern Denver suburb to get it.
Language, however, might be the biggest obstacle.
"One thing those kids from Hawaii have to learn is how to slow down and (enunciate) their words because people don't understand them," said Cabral, who grew up in Kailua.
Did Dizon have to learn that?
"Yeah, very much so," Cabral answered with a laugh.
Yet here he is today, a captain expected to show others the way.
Cabral said Dizon owns enough talent to play in the NFL.
"At the end of the season, we can determine where he fits with all the great linebackers that have come through here," Cabral said. "I would say he's on course ... I think he's due for his best year. He's had a lot of good years, but this should be his best."
Once football ends, Dizon thinks he might want to venture into business, possibly at one of Hawaii's big hotels. What's on his mind now is ending his college career, the one that's flown by, with pride. Colorado finished 2-10 in 2006, its worst season since 1984, and it angered the returning Buffaloes. Dizon, especially.
Dizon could be an all-American in 2007. He could win the Butkus Award, be named all-conference and perch himself among the nation's best linebackers.
Those possibilities don't concern him.
"I want our team to have a great year," he said. "If I make 150 tackles and we go 2-10 again, it means absolutely nothing. I'd be happy with making two tackles, and we go 10-2, or 12-0."
Patrick Ridgell covers Colorado football for the Longmont (Colo.) Daily Times-Call