CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Amani Purcell did his share of lifting weights on the press bench with the help of Mike Lafaele and Fudge Fajardo.
Weight training at a higher level
Fudge's Gym is a place where lifting weights is more of a science
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Mike Lafaele, Amani Purcell and Hercules Satele didn't get invited to the NFL Combine. But the former Hawaii linemen are VIPs at Fudge's Gym, and that might help them get noticed when UH has its Pro Day on April 1 in Carson, Calif.
Harold "Fudge" Fajardo has already helped train three former UH players on their way to the NFL -- Leo Goeas, Ma'a Tanuvasa and Vince Manuwai.
Lafaele, Purcell and Satele have been working out with former Warriors Samson Satele (Miami Dolphins) and Dane Uperesa (Cincinnati Bengals) at the gym attached to the Mililani home of Fajardo, whose training technique is based on good old-fashioned high reps with heavy weights.
"Some question if it's too many reps," Fajardo said. "Hey, Colt (Brennan) got where he is by reps of throwing the ball. It's the same thing."
Quarterback Brennan and former UH receivers Davone Bess, Ryan Grice-Mullins and Jason Rivers are on the mainland preparing for the combine, which starts Wednesday.
Purcell, who started at defensive end for UH last season, said he's made outstanding gains midway through Fajardo's nine-week program, including 44 reps on the bench with 225 pounds.
Uperesa said he's enjoying helping his former teammates get ready for their shot at the pros, while preparing himself for a chance to get on the Bengals' depth chart at left tackle. And he likes the no-frills aspects of Fudge's Gym.
"There's really no distractions here. If you go back to the school you're going to see people that you haven't seen for a while and they might distract you from your workout. Over here it's a quick 45-minute workout. And it's an honor to work out here."
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It's not really a secret location, nor what you'd call isolated.
But it's away from the autograph seekers and other admirers, and it's where two NFL offensive linemen and three others who hope to get to the league can do their work in peace.
"I like it here," said Samson Satele, the former University of Hawaii center who now starts for the Miami Dolphins. "It's a real quiet area. Nobody knows where it is. We just come here and pound the weights."
The place is Fudge's Gym, a small room bloated with free weights, attached to a typical Mililani home on a cul de sac three turns off the highway.
Harold "Fudge" Fajardo, 61, estimates that the 600 square-foot extension to his home holds around 20,000 pounds of weights -- more than enough for five 300-pound linemen to get their daily dose of iron.
He can't calculate how much money he's put into the room. So much equipment has come and gone over the years -- bought by him, donated by him to fundraisers, given to schools, donated to him by others -- it would be as mind-numbing to figure out as how a 198-pound man could bench press 440 pounds, as Fajardo once did himself.
There's no sauna, no pilates classes, no annual membership fees. Just weights and that old gym smell of sweat and strength.
Among the regulars from years past are former UH and NFL players Leo Goeas and Ma'a Tanuvasa, and Vince Manuwai, a former Warrior who starts at guard for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The walls are full of pictures and newspaper articles, and 14 football helmets -- high school, college and pro -- hang from the ceiling.
Fajardo's current project is trying to help three players who just finished at UH get into the NFL. Mike Lafaele, Amani Purcell and Hercules Satele were all starters for the 12-1 Warriors last fall. But they did not get selected for this week's NFL Combine. Their big chance comes April 1 at Carson, Calif., when pro scouts will check out UH alums.
So now they work out three or four days a week at Fudge's Gym, specifically on the bench press. The goal is to break the record for bench press repetitions (225 pounds) for all pro days, which Fajardo said is 50.
Dane Uperesa (another former Warrior now a tackle with the Cincinnati Bengals) and Samson Satele complete the workout group. Goeas, now a player agent, represents them all. He sent them to Fajardo, a retired Hawaiian Tel employee whose passion is helping others expand their limits.
"The environment there prepares them to not limit themselves. Fudge is great at pushing people out of their comfort zones," Goeas said. "He helps them develop a 'no fear' attitude they'll need when they get to camp."
The session starts with a prayer. A sign on the wall says, "Fudge's Gym, but Jesus Rules."
"Easy day today. Light day," Fajardo says.
Of course, everything is relative.
A light day for these guys starts with a warm-up of 20 reps of 225 pounds.
The workout is basic, but fast and intense, with plenty of inspirational talk and technical instruction from Fajardo. On this day, one of his star alumni, Tanuvasa, he of two Super Bowl rings, observes.
"I was 16 when I started lifting. Before, I was more of a beach guy," said Tanuvasa, who did 43 reps at the combine and played nine NFL seasons. "I had some other friends who lifted here and they told me about the gym."
Fajardo built it in 1985, after a friend challenged him to enter a powerlifting contest. It became a haven for high school lifters, and then Goeas, Tanuvasa and Manuwai made it a home of pro football players.
Tanuvasa asked Samson Satele who he's preparing for.
"Nah, Casey Hampton," Satele said.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Samson Satele put in some extra work by doing some flys in front of the mirror.
Actually, it's for every defensive tackle on the Dolphins schedule, not just the All-Pros.
"I have to pick my strength up, because every guy (in the NFL) is stronger than the strongest guy I faced in college. The guy that's second string or third string? He's just as good as the guy who's starting. College, you can take a play off when you see some other guy come in. Now, you know they're all good and you gotta bring your 'A' game every time."
"First time here. I've been working out four years. I train hard, but over here I got stronger on my bench faster," Satele added.
The others say the same, and the bench is what will get them noticed by the scouts. Some say it's overrated, but not for linemen.
"They're looking more for speed at other positions. But when a lineman comes, they want to see how strong you are. They want to know you can take the punishment and still dish it out," Hercules Satele said. "Every time the weights go higher, we still do 20 reps. (Fajardo) just pushes you to the limit and you see the results."
Uperesa said Fajardo's coaching will help him in his bid to make Cincinnati's regular roster this year after a rookie season on the practice squad.
"He's teaching me a lot about my muscles and how to use them correctly. Other places they just give you a set and you do it," Uperesa said. "Over here they lift heavy weights, but they know what they're doing."
Lafaele said he is getting great results five weeks into Fajardo's program.
"I never lifted like this. Ever. I think it's him, the weights and the reps. It's perfect for what we train for," the defensive tackle said. "He works with our technique, grips, elbow, back. A lot of little details can get you 10 more reps."