STAR-BULLETIN / 2006
Blaze Soares put pressure on ASU's Rudy Carpenter.
Tire represents Soares’ tireless effort
STORY SUMMARY »
The Star-Bulletin's series of weekly features about University of Hawaii football players preparing for the upcoming season continues today with a profile of sophomore linebacker Blaze Soares.
The Big Q
How many games do you think Hawaii will win this season? To vote, go to the Big Q on starbulletin.com.
After playing in 12 games as a freshman, Soares entered fall camp atop the depth chart at stub linebacker in the Warriors' revamped 4-3 scheme alongside juniors Solomon Elimimian and Adam Leonard.
"Everybody knows about them -- they've proved themselves over the years," Soares said. "Looking at them, they look ready, and I can't wait to play by their side."
The linebacker corps looks to be one of the Warriors' deepest positions, and Soares will have competition for playing time from veterans such as Brad Kalilimoku and C.J. Allen-Jones.
"They all can play. We're a great family and I think that's what's going to make us successful, that we're all so close," Soares said.
Soares' speed is among the chief traits that made him an All-State linebacker at Castle and now a projected starter in his second season of college ball.
But patience was an attribute he would have to develop before he could suit up for the Warriors. He sat out a year while working to become eligible to enroll at UH, heightening his appreciation for the game.
Today's UH football coverage also includes a practice report featuring interviews with running backs David Farmer, Kealoha Pilares and Leon Wright-Jackson, and news and notes including information on newcomer Joe Avery, a 6-foot-4 1/2-inch receiver.
FULL STORY »
Blaze Soares was a regular visitor to the neighborhood fitness center over the summer, sculpting his physique in sterile surroundings with an array of the latest in exercise apparatus.
But his most trusted pieces of training equipment are an old tire and a harness he crafted himself.
Since his sophomore season of high school, Soares has lugged the 70-pound tire, which had outlived its usefulness in construction, onto the sand at Kailua Beach. Once he's hooked it up to the harness, he'll drag it up a hill, building speed and strength with every step.
"It's more challenging, so when I run on grass or turf I feel way faster," the Hawaii linebacker said.
Soares' sand-based summer regimen helped him pass the Warriors' annual conditioning test to open fall camp on Friday, and the speed the sophomore has built over the years has him in position to earn a starting job in a UH linebacker corps touted as perhaps the fastest in coach June Jones' tenure.
That's not to say Soares entered camp comfortable in his place atop the post-spring depth chart at stub (strong-side) linebacker, hence the motivation for maintaining his offseason workout regimen.
In fact, there isn't much he takes for granted any more when it comes to football.
SB FILE / 2006
UH linebacker Blaze Soares sacked Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter during the Warriors' win over the Boilermakers last season at Aloha Stadium.
A Star-Bulletin All-State linebacker at Castle High School, Soares didn't qualify for admission to UH after graduation. He spent a year attending Hawaii Pacific University before transferring to Manoa, where he played in 12 games as a freshman and recorded two sacks.
The year off the field proved tough to endure for someone who had been playing since he first joined the Ewa Beach Pop Warner league at age 7.
"That season made me appreciate so much about football, showed me how much I love football," Soares said. "I think it opened up my eyes. It made me want it more. I think I got complacent my senior year and I didn't really appreciate the sport.
"We're privileged to be out here and call ourselves Warriors. It's not something every person in Hawaii can do. For a local boy, this was my dream to come over here and play and I'm living it right now."
Soares' football background goes back a generation and played a role in his distinctive name.
His father, Wayne, played quarterback from his youth-league days through his career at Campbell High School. When he and his wife were expecting their first child, Wayne suggested naming him after one of his childhood buddies, Blaiseden Barnes.
"We were good friends when we were young and we grew up to-
gether, and ever since we were young I was the quarterback and he was my center," Wayne Soares said.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Linebacker Blaze Soares, left, and defensive end Victor Clore showed up for training camp with matching bleached hair with green stars dyed in.
Once Blaze reached high school, his name became all too familiar for Castle opponents. He was on the Knights' varsity roster as a freshman and starting by his sophomore season, when he helped the Knights win the Oahu Interscholastic Association title and reach the state championship game.
"He was always a good runner -- he was very physical, just committed and had a passion for the game," Castle coach Nelson Maeda said. "He had the tools and the potential to become a real good
linebacker. Very instinctive, he has a good feel for
where he's supposed to go, what he's supposed to do, and where the offense is trying to go."
Soares' natural gifts meshed with a Castle defensive scheme that countered a lack of size with speed and an aggressive mentality he carried over into college ball.
"We were undersized; everybody thought they would just run us over," Soares said. "But the way Coach Nelson Maeda, Coach Tony Pang Kee and Coach Harry Paaga prepared us was to just go for broke. When you leave that field, you leave everything behind. That's the way we were taught and I think that's why we were so successful over there. I take that with me everywhere I go."
Two other Castle graduates, defensive lineman Victor Clore and quarterback Bryce Kalauokaaea, joined Soares for his early morning workouts on the beach pulling that trusty tire up the hill. After doing more running and football drills in the sand, they'd head to the 24-Hour Fitness in Kaneohe for a lifting session. Every other day they'd run with the Castle players at the campus field.
Still, he admitted to being a bit nervous when he arrived at the UH practice field for Friday's dreaded 220s, a set of 10 timed down-and-back sprints.
"I was training on the beach every morning, but I was just training for 100 meters, so I was kind of worried," Soares said after completing all 10 for the second straight year. "But I pulled through. Everybody was pushing me. It was tough, but I felt like I accomplished something real good today."