Slotbacks get back into mix
Everybody loves to win. But if there's one Hawaii football player who appreciates it more than the others, it's Ryan Grice-Mullins.
In 2003 he suffered through a winless senior season at Rialto (Calif.) High School. Grice-Mullins was a great individual talent, playing quarterback, running back and cornerback. But his team won just one game in two seasons.
Now the Warriors will try to complete an undefeated season by upsetting Georgia in the Jan. 1 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.
"When you surround yourself with winners, it's addictive and you'll do anything to get that feeling," Grice-Mullins said. "That's how this team was. Do anything to win the game."
Grice-Mullins and his fellow All-WAC junior slotback, Davone Bess, returned to practice yesterday, running routes with the first team for the first time since UH started its bowl game practice a week ago.
"I feel good, for the most part to get back out here," Grice-Mullins said. "The game's getting closer now so it's time to focus up on.
Meatoga won’t make bowl trip
Hawaii freshman defensive tackle Vaughn Meatoga will be on Kauai attending funeral services for his mother on Dec. 29, prohibiting him from making the Warriors' trip to the Sugar Bowl.
Lynette Meatoga of Kauai died Tuesday after a long battle with breast cancer.
"Our prayers are with the family," UH defensive line coach Jeff Reinebold said. "They are wonderful people."
Vaughn Meatoga, a true freshman from Kamehameha who redshirted this season, was not expected to play in the Sugar Bowl against Georgia. He was impressive in fall camp and is expected to compete for playing time next season.
His mother was receiving treatment on Oahu recently, but returned to Kauai earlier this week.
"She fought it extremely hard and was courageous in her fight. It got to the point where her body couldn't take the chemo anymore," Reinebold said.
Many UH players visited her during her final days.
"(Defensive tackle) Keala (Watson) sent out a text message and the guys really rallied around Vaughn and his family," Reinebold said. "Kenny (Meatoga, Lynette's husband and Vaughn's father) wanted the kids to know how hard she fought and wanted that strength to transfer to them."
Before he was a football kicker, UH junior Dan Kelly was a soccer goalkeeper.
Yesterday he recounted a match in 2003 in which he played against prodigy Freddy Adu.
"I was at the Walt Disney World Classic with my USA Elite team and he was playing as an "on-loan" player," Kelly said. "I never really met him. He played the last 10 minutes of the first half and the last 10 minutes of the second half, that's when he scored his goal. I played the first half."
As Kelly often does with kick returners, he got physical with Adu.
"He tried to challenge me, hit me low," Kelly said. "The next time he came in I put my knee in his chest. It's totally legal in soccer. If he comes after me, I can protect myself."
The additional practice sessions UH gets for being in a bowl game especially help young players -- even those who don't expect to play much against Georgia.
Second-year freshman Greg Salas is an heir apparent to one of the Warriors' senior wide receivers, Jason Rivers and C.J. Hawthorne.
Receivers coach Ron Lee said Salas has taken advantage of the extra practice reps. So have junior backup slotbacks Aaron Bain and Mike Washington. Those two have gotten plenty of action with Davone Bess and Ryan Grice-Mullins coming back slowly from regular season wear and tear.
"Every rep helps you out, especially when you're working toward becoming a starter," Salas said. "Everything's really helping me out. Having the older players coach you up, help you out. Learning little things to be perfect. Like they are."
Salas said he's excited about going to New Orleans for the first time.
"I have a couple ideas about it, that it might be wild and crazy," he said. "But we'll all be good. We'll get some fun stuff out of our system early and then focus on the Georgia Bulldogs."
Former Castle defensive lineman Travis Pa'aga, a Star-Bulletin second-team all-stater in 2004, hopes to join the Warriors. The 6-foot-3, 315-pound tackle said he has three years of eligibility left to play two seasons. ... Senior safety Jake Patek is expected to receive a Hula Bowl invitation soon. He will join teammates C.J. Hawthorne, Mike Lafaele, Jason Rivers and Hercules Satele in the Jan. 12 all-star game at Aloha Stadium.