STAR-BULLETIN / 2006
Timo Paepule said Cal Lee talked him into trying out for the football team at Saint Louis even though he played only one year at the Pop Warner level, where he didn't like it. CLICK FOR LARGE
Paepule savoring his final Warriors camp
HOW MANY camps is this for him? He has to stop and count.
"Let me see," Hawaii linebacker Timo Paepule says. "Five!"
Only now does it seem to hit him.
"My fifth camp, man," he says, exhaling it slowly, like he's savoring every breath.
On every college football team, there is the guy who seems like he's been there forever (at Nevada, Caleb Spencer was like that; Western Athletic Conference opponents still claim Tim Chang played seven years). On this 2007 Hawaii team, Timo is that guy.
He disputes his claim to that crown with a laugh: "Ho, I that old?"
Maybe it only seems that way.
But he is the old lion, seasoned and wily and proud. He is the veteran of this camp, of this team. He's the big brother, the guy who's seen it all and knows every secret, all the ins and outs.
"Me, Mike (Lafaele), Herc, J-Rivs, and that's it. Us four. We came in together. For us, it's our fifth camp. All the guys who came in with us, they all left. They all went their separate ways, they quit," Paepule says.
Wait, Larry Sauafea was with them, too, in that signing-day class.
"We're like the lone soldiers," Paepule says, "only five of us left."
PAEPULE WENT TO Saint Louis (so long ago it was spelled "St. Louis") as, he says, "a punishment." His mom didn't want him to get into trouble. He had no interest in football -- he'd played just one year of Pop Warner and hadn't liked it. He was a basketball man.
But then Cal Lee talked him into trying out for the team. Then he was on varsity as a sophomore. Then he had a full ride. He loves football now. He loves Lee for that.
How long has Timo been around? He and his old high school coach came in together at UH.
He's on his third defensive coordinator now.
It's been a long run. It's been a good run. The UH media guide says he's had one career start, but he's always hitting somebody, on special teams. He's always right there. He has everyone's respect.
He's the old lion, the veteran. He knows everything; he's seen it all.
He's a leader now. The young guys come to him for guidance, and he gives it, even though as a backup he's vulnerable to being jumped on the depth chart.
"I remember I was in their shoes and I just humble myself," he says. "They're just getting better, that's the main thing. That's what we had last year, the unity. Now we got all these new guys, we gotta keep it going."
He doesn't feel old. It's funny. He likes being tired now after practice, he knows it's a good sign for the team. He knows it will pay off down the road. Knows this is when the bonds are forged. He savors these days, even with the sore muscles and the burning lungs. It's all part of camp. His fifth camp. His last camp.
When he was younger he hated how hard it was, the drudgery, the pain, the heat, all that stuff. But now, as the dog days of summer are hitting, this realization is, too: "I no like go, brah," he says. "I don't want it to end."