DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Former UH football coach June Jones and his successor, Greg McMackin, are headed to American Samoa to lead clinics.
Jones, McMackin off to Samoa
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June Jones was telling some folks in Dallas about his upcoming trip to American Samoa. Afterward, he was told that the first football gear brought there from the United States was from SMU.
Although Jones no longer coaches in Hawaii, he's maintaining a high profile throughout Polynesia. He and four SMU assistants, Warriors coach Greg McMackin and four of his assistants, and several NFL players, past and present of Polynesian descent, are conducting the June Jones American Samoa Football Academy today and tomorrow.
"I hold a special affection for the Polynesian culture and I know that this terrific group of coaches and players will make a real difference in helping to develop the game of football in American Samoa," Jones said in a news release yesterday.
Five $2,000 scholarships will be awarded, and the undertaking also includes a medical mission with $100,000 in supplies and the expertise of eight health care professionals.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Former UH player Reagan Mauia, now a fullback for the Miami Dolphins, will join former Hawaii coach June Jones on this weekend's trip to American Samoa.
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It's a reunion for some. For others, a homecoming.
All are on a mission.
The June Jones American Samoa Football Academy isn't just about the game with the funny shaped ball or Hawaii and SMU coaches trading war stories and competing for recruits.
In the big picture, the most important part of the undertaking is its medical mission component.
"They need a lot of help there," said Kevin Kaplan, executive director of the June Jones Foundation, which is sponsoring the trip along with other charities.
Five doctors and three other medical professionals, led by Ellie Taft, the wife of SMU and former UH assistant coach Jeff Reinebold, are volunteering their expertise and bringing $100,000 worth of medical supplies donated by Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children.
"They need all the help medically that they can get," said former UH running back Reagan Mauia, now of the Miami Dolphins. "There are a lot of elderly people there who are in need of medical assistance. For June Jones and everyone to do this, it means a lot. It shows that people really care."
It will be a very emotional trip for Mauia. He was born in American Samoa, but moved when he was 13. This is his first time back after leaving in 1995.
"I'm very grateful to be involved," Mauia said at a news conference at Honolulu Airport yesterday as the entourage awaited its flight to Pago Pago.
Another former UH player from American Samoa, defensive lineman Melila Purcell, now plays for the Cleveland Browns. He looks forward to tomorrow's clinic, where the coaches and players will share their knowledge with 550 youths. There will also be a clinic for American Samoa coaches.
"I'm excited to go back home, but even more, to go back and spend some time with the young players. We hardly had any NFL players or camps. I went to one camp. I told myself I want to be in that position some day to come back and help out," said Purcell, whose father, Melila Sr., is the academy director. "Teaching the kids and telling them what I went through will be great. I want to give them the idea, 'You can do anything.' The road I took was tough, but very exciting."
Former UH greats and NFL players Jesse Sapolu and Leo Goeas are also on the trip. So is Paul Soliai, a former Utah player now in the NFL.
Warriors head coach Greg McMackin and assistants Alex Gerke, Nick Rolovich, Brian Smith and Craig Stutzmann were slated to make the trip. They were joined by Dennis McKnight, Wes Suan, Frank Gansz and Reinebold of Jones' SMU staff. All coached at UH, even Gansz, who was a guest coach one spring.
"There are two special things about this," McMackin said. "It's great for Samoa to have these superstar guys come back. And our staffs are very close. We have brothers on the SMU staff. It's really a joint venture."
Jones plans for it to be an annual undertaking.
"Originally I was going to take the UH staff, but then I left for SMU (in January). I'm really excited Mack has joined us."