RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Royce Pollard tried to get past Chris Thorpe during a scrimmage at the UH practice field recently.
Pollard shows his Hawaiian side
After six years, Royce Pollard is back in touch with his Hawaiian roots.
The Warrior freshman wideout was born in Hawaii but raised in various places on the mainland because of his parents' military background. Now, he relishes the opportunity he's been granted as a walk-on to make an impact in the overhauled Warrior receiver corps.
Pollard was on the scout team last fall and entered spring camp a long shot to compete for playing time against the more experienced Malcolm Lane and Dylan Linkner at "Z" (right-side) receiver.
But 13 practices of hard work later, the 6-foot-2, 175-pound Pollard is poised to claim a starting job entering the fall. Tomorrow, he can show his ability in the Warrior Bowl at Aloha Stadium on the Black team, coached by offensive coordinator Ron Lee.
"I think Royce is competing for a starting spot," Lee said. "Guys like Royce had a great spring. You tell him something once, he gets it done, makes the corrections. Expect him to come back (in the fall) and compete. Last year, he hardly got any reps. He's really stepped up."
Small surprise Pollard ended up on Lee's side of the field; it was Lee, then the receivers coach, who extended an invitation to fall camp Pollard's way last year after noticing him "wandering around campus."
"He told me, 'You got some really big hands,'" Pollard said.
Thus Pollard, who starred as a slotback and in track at University City High School in San Diego, earned a spot deep in the rotation behind C.J. Hawthorne and Lane in a stacked offensive unit.
Moving to the islands was an easy choice to make because of a burning desire to learn more about his Hawaiian heritage. He'd visited briefly in the past, but never stayed long enough to get comfortable. Now, he's making up for lost time. Since enrolling in the fall, Pollard has taken a course in (Hawaiian history).
Pollard's mother, Verli-Ann, raised her part-Hawaiian son with local customs in mind. He called myriad places home until Pollard went to live with his dad after finishing the seventh grade.
He remained with his African-American father, Anthony, throughout high school, losing touch with that side of the family to a certain extent. That is, until rediscovering his mother's ways with a host of Polynesian Warrior teammates in Manoa.
"I see how they act, I enjoy it," Pollard said. "I see a lot of the Hawaiian attributes I portrayed, even though I wasn't here. Up until seventh grade, I was really living like that, the Hawaiian passion."
Quarterback Inoke Funaki remembers his first impression of Pollard, and noted his humble and hard-working nature meshes well with that of the rest of the team.
"His first summer, he'd be out here with his playbook already, running his routes," Funaki said. "They say attitude determines altitude. The coaches like the guys who know their plays. I think for him, he's going up from here."
With a grin, Funaki pointed out that on the rare occasions when Pollard does decide to trash talk after making a grab against the defense, it's in a good-natured way.
Although he's made considerable progress on the field, the wideout is still in the process of taking a head count on all the members of his extended family here.
"Some people probably still don't know I'm their nephew or cousin," Pollard said with a grin and shrug.
With four full years ahead to leave a mark with the Warriors, that's only a matter of time.