CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Running back Alonzo Chopp III and linebacker Mana Lolotai collided at practice yesterday. Chopp gets a pass on curfew during Hawaii fall football camp. CLICK FOR LARGE
Lads in full pads
The first day of full pads found the Hawaii football team in a variety of attire yesterday
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Some of the Warriors wore their sleek, black game pants, others were in their baggies. Old-school Tyler Graunke found a pair of Rainbow pants somewhere.
Catch more updates on the UH Sports Extra blog
The first day of full pads found the Hawaii football team in a variety of attire yesterday.
Several starters remained sidelined with minor injuries, including linebackers Solomon Elimimian (hamstring) and Blaze Soares (shoulder). Star slotback Davone Bess (lower back) joined them, but came back in the afternoon to field punts.
The Warriors got a boost with the arrival to practice of Calvin Roberts, and the news that Ryan Mouton is cleared to join the team. These JC transfer cornerbacks are expected to challenge seniors Myron Newberry and Gerard Lewis -- who have both practiced with aplomb -- for their starting spots. But it may be too late to unseat the diminutive duo for the Sept. 1 opener against Northern Colorado.
Several backup players got considerable action yesterday, and the offensive tackles remained flip-flopped for a second consecutive practice, with Keith AhSoon on the left and Keoni Steinhoff on the right.
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Chopp does real 2-a-days
THERE'S a Hawaii football player who gets special treatment. Unlike everyone else in fall camp -- from Colt Brennan to the lowliest freshman -- he doesn't have to worry about curfew. Sometimes he doesn't get back to the team bunks until 2:30 a.m., after the bars close.
"Sorry I missed you at the club last night," running backs coach Wes Suan told him yesterday.
Alonzo Chopp just laughed. He doesn't even feel guilty about it. He just staggers right past the 50 other sleeping players in his room, and goes straight to his cot, ready to crash.
"When I get in, I'm pretty tired," he said. "I fall asleep right away."
Four hours later, Chopp wakes up with his teammates and gets ready for practice. He's never punished for breaking curfew.
It's special treatment, but not star treatment. In three years at UH, he's played in three games and carried the ball once. He's so far down on the depth chart, it's hard to tell if he's fifth or sixth string in the Warriors' one-back formation. The guy isn't even on scholarship.
What gives, Coach June Jones?
Does anyone else get to treat curfew like a used piece of trainer's tape?
"We have some guys with baby-sitting issues, so we give them some breaks," Jones said. "But this one is unique."
IF YOU'VE been to 7-Eleven on King Street near University Avenue, you may have been served by a UH football player and not even known it. Alonzo Chopp's been working there quite a while now, 20 to 30 hours a week, on night and graveyard shifts that don't interfere with school and football.
June Jones is one of his regular customers.
"I come in at 3:30 or 4 in the morning. I get coffee over there and he takes my money," Jones said. "You'd think I'd get free coffee, but he's a good employee. He can't give it away."
To Jones, that's a sign of character. So when Chopp told Suan and Jones that participation in fall camp would conflict with his work schedule, they decided to let him go to his night job.
As a walk-on, Chopp is allowed to have a job throughout the year, unlike teammates on scholarship. He needs the job for rent, food and other expenses.
"I have to keep working," Chopp said. "I have to pay the bills."
The coaches also allow the exception because Chopp has done everything they've asked of him.
"If he was a pain-in-the-butt guy or high-maintenance guy, we'd worry about it," Suan said. "But he's very dependable, so we want to do everything to help him become better. Other guys we would tell them, 'Well, just go work at the job,' forget about football."
Suan is also a regular 7-Eleven customer.
"I get nothing free from him. And he doesn't get anything free from me," Suan said. "It's even."
"Full price for everybody," Chopp said.
There's no resentment among teammates of Chopp's comings and goings during camp. They know where he is.
"When somebody tries to come up with an excuse for something, you know it's not a good excuse," sophomore running back Mario Cox said. "Because of what Alonzo does."
FOOTBALL PRACTICE on 4 hours sleep in the hot sun isn't easy for anyone. But Alonzo Chopp, USMC, conquered more stressful challenges with significantly less rest.
Walking around through a crowded room of snoring compadres in the middle of the night like he's doing this week is nothing new; it's just like firewatch during boot camp.
Chopp also made it through 72 hours of jungle warfare and survival training with a couple of 10-minute catnaps in Okinawa five years ago.
And there were no Big Gulps or burritos for miles.
"It was just survival. Catch our own food, find some live chickens, skin 'em and cook 'em. Wild plants. I ate a lot of gross things as a Marine," he said.
Chopp said he was fully prepared to serve in the war, but is glad his enlistment ended before it came to that and that he wants his fellow Marines and his country out of Iraq.
He was a track, as well as football standout in Hearne, Texas, and was supposed to get a tryout with the All-Marine Corps track and field team before his orders were changed. When that happened, he decided not to re-enlist, and "look for a school to walk on at." That school turned out to be UH, since he was stationed at Kaneohe.
A torn ACL in 2004 took away his speed and chances for meaningful playing time early in his career. But it also means he can get a redshirt season -- timing completion of his senior season with collection of his degree in anthropology next fall.
Chopp gradually put on weight the past three years and peaked at 245 pounds, but is down to 232. He doesn't kill time on the graveyard shift with donuts anymore. He wants to play.
"This year he could help us with special teams. And he's knowledgeable enough to do some cleanup work at running back," Suan said. "He's such a great kid, willing to make all the sacrifices."
At age 26, he's the quiet, wise old man of the Warriors. Cox called him "Grandpa."
Jones appointed Chopp and another Marine walk-on, Ammon Tong, as team captains for a game the week of Veteran's Day two years ago.
"He's like every other Marine I've ever known," Jones said. "A team player. He does whatever he can to help the team, and that's what a good Marine is."
Even if he can't make curfew, or slide the coach a cup of coffee.