RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii's Gerard Lewis held up the ball after recovering a fumble in Hawaii's opener against Northern Colorado at Aloha Stadium. Behind is Karl Noa, and at left is Fale Laeli.
UH’s Texas ties
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HOUSTON » Ron Mouton looked out at the field at Rice Stadium and spotted his son, Ryan, who was a football star at nearby Katy High School. Ryan was in a Hawaii uniform.
Hawaii (2-0) at UNLV (1-1)
» Tomorrow, 3:30 p.m. Hawaii time
» Las Vegas
» TV: Live on pay per view, Oceanic Ch. 255. Replayed on KFVE (Ch. 5) at 9:30 p.m.
» Radio: Live, 1420-AM
He's not the only one who would've never guessed Ryan would end up at UH.
"I really thought he'd be the one to stay close to home," the father said. "But he made the decision to go to Hawaii and it was a great decision."
Mouton, a highly regarded cornerback, is one of five defensive backs at UH from Texas (one, safety Erik Robinson, is not on the current road trip).
The Texas players are thriving with the Warriors partly because of the states' shared passion for football.
"Football is king in Hawaii and football is king in Texas," said UH defensive coordinator Greg McMackin, who previously coached at Texas Tech. "They regard it the same way. Texans and Hawaiians have a fighting spirit and independent attitude. They're winners and competitors and fun to coach."
Most of the UH Texans were told they didn't have the goods to play Division I football, but they didn't give up.
"They're used to being coached hard and pushed from the time they're young," said defensive line coach Jeff Reinebold, who recruited them. "You won't find better character kids."
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Cornerback Myron Newberry is one of three members of Hawaii's starting secondary who hail from Texas.
HOUSTON » It was homecoming week without a homecoming game here for three starters and a key reserve in the Hawaii secondary. All four two-stepped from Texas high schools to junior colleges and are now thriving as Warriors.
Corners Gerard Lewis and Myron Newberry and safety Jake Patek start for No. 24 Hawaii (2-0), which visits UNLV (1-1) tomorrow at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. Ryan Mouton of Katy, Texas, is the third cornerback and returns kickoffs.
The Texans -- three from the Houston area -- got a healthy taste of home as the Warriors staged here to prepare for the Rebels after last Saturday's 45-44 win at Louisiana Tech. UH practiced all week at Rice Stadium before leaving today for Las Vegas.
Coach June Jones determined that remaining on the mainland would give the Warriors the best chance of winning the two games rather than flying back and forth from Hawaii two weeks in a row. It created a happy by-product for the Texans (as well as several other players from the South) as family and friends got to see them here and in Louisiana.
All four of the players from the Lone Star State said they'd never expected to play college football at Hawaii.
"Not in a million years," said Newberry, who has started 10 consecutive games at right corner going back to last season. "I was going to go to Tulsa (from Trinity Valley CC and Ryan High School in Denton), but visited Hawaii and I loved it."
Patek, a linebacker at Blinn JC and more known as a baseball player at Victoria Memorial High, was on the bubble for a scholarship at Texas A&M last year that didn't come through. He was considering walking on with the Aggies when contacted by UH defensive line coach Jeff Reinebold.
"I never really thought I'd actually go to Hawaii. I'd seen it on TV and it was beautiful, but I never pictured myself there," Patek said. "I visited and I loved everyone I met. It's a close-knit team. Plus, I had nowhere else to go. They told me they thought I could play."
Patek, a linebacker at Blinn, successfully shifted to safety with 55 tackles in 2006, starting all 14 games last year and both this fall.
Mouton, who was Patek's teammate at Blinn, is the most gifted of the four. He led Katy High School to the Texas 5-A state championship as a senior, and Texas A&M and Kansas both wanted him. But he wasn't yet ready for Division I.
"I was kind of hurting in the grades area, so I went the JC route," Mouton said. "It was a great experience, and I learned that the academics have to come first. If they don't, it doesn't matter how much talent you have. You can't think your talent alone will take you where you want to go."
Mouton returned four kickoffs for 93 yards against La-Tech, and is getting increasing playing time at cornerback.
Lewis, who starts at left corner, made the game-winning play against the Bulldogs. With Patek and linebacker Brad Kalilimoku pressuring quarterback Zac Champion, Lewis batted down Champion's pass for a 2-point conversion that decided the outcome.
Lewis was going to go to Division II Eastern New Mexico State before Reinebold found him at Tyler Junior College, after he'd played at Houston's Galena Park North Shore High.
"I got a couple letters, phone calls (from other Division I schools). But scholarships, none," said Lewis, who has started nine of UH's last 10 games and intercepted a pass to set up the game-winning score against Purdue.
Recruiters considered Lewis and Newberry short, Patek out of position and Mouton an academic underachiever. But all four have erased the doubts.
"When you're recruiting, you have to decide if you go with production, or if you go with pretty," said Reinebold, who brought in all four Texans. "Like when you're 16 years old, pretty will get your heart broken."
Jones isn't surprised the players from Texas have fit in well nearly 4,000 miles from home and in a totally different culture. Jones, who coached the Houston Gamblers and Houston Oilers, said football players from Texas and Hawaii share a bond.
"It's very similar," Jones said. "In Texas football is life. In high school it's what you live for, and it's also very important in Hawaii. The cultures are different obviously, but the two states have the same kind of spirit."
Patek has gone to some high school games in Hawaii.
"There are faster players in Texas but bigger players in Hawaii," he said. "A lot of people say high school football in Texas is like a religion. In Hawaii it's the same thing, it's football this and football that. It's a big draw."