H A W A I I _ S P O R T S


Tuesday, December 22, 1998

Aloha Bowl

Baseball was the
original lure for
Aloha Bowl QBs

By Paul Arnett

Had quarterbacks Akili Smith of Oregon and Colorado's Mike Moschetti been able to hit a curve, they probably wouldn't be under center for this Friday's 17th annual Jeep Aloha Bowl.

Both players spent three years in the minor leagues before returning to football via the junior college route.

As a 17-year-old, Smith left Lincoln High School in San Diego to join the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. He signed a minor-league contract worth $103,000, but just wasn't focused enough to play baseball at that level.

"I was hanging with people I thought were my friends, and they really weren't," Smith said of his days in Florida. "It helped me mature a lot, so when I got to this level I was able to sit back and realize what my career goals were. I just worked hard this year and I'm happy about that."

Smith isn't sure going from high school to the minor leagues is the best journey for young kids seeking a professional baseball career. In his mind, attending college first might be the better way.

"It's tough to be away from home at that age," Smith said. "But they give you that cash and you're hanging out doing God knows what. You're telling your family you're doing great. But to be quite honest, you're not. We had curfews, but we used to do foolish things like sneak out. I have regrets because I do believe I have the talent to play that game. I just wasn't committed to it."

Moschetti had a bit more success. The La Mirada, Calif., resident played three years in the Oakland A's organization. Unlike Smith, who played in the Gulf Coast League, Moschetti was focused on baseball for a while.

He was selected in the second round out of high school, and signed a bonus worth $200,000. He stayed in Class A ball. In 23 games at Modesto, he batted .351. Moschetti also played in 159 minor league games at Arizona, Midwest, Calif., and in the Northwest leagues. He batted .309 and stole 45 bases.

"It's kind of an interesting sidelight to the game that both quarterbacks tried their hand in baseball," Colorado head coach Rick Neuheisel said.

"Mike has come in and done some good things for us. I think some of the guys who play baseball professionally are a little more mature because they had to grow up in a hurry. It will be an interesting battle between those two guys."

Bullet The longest-running title sponsorship with a college bowl game just got a little longer.

Bowl Games of Hawaii officials announced today that they have reached a four-year agreement with Jeep to be the title sponsor for not only the Aloha Bowl, but the inaugural Oahu Bowl as well.

"We have reached an agreement with them that will keep them as our title sponsor through 2002," chief executive officer Lenny Klompus confirmed yesterday.

Bullet This will be the healthiest both teams have been in recent weeks.

Colorado has everyone back, except the players that were lost for the season. They are wide receiver Cedric Cormier (knee), offensive tackle Victor Rogers (foot) and linebacker Albus Brooks (knee).

Oregon is also fairly healthy, but will be slowed somewhat on offense with the loss of junior tailback Reuben Droughns. He broke his leg the sixth game of the season, but still wound up the Ducks' leading rusher with 824 yards.

Oahu Bowl

Not even a torn ACL
can keep this Falcon

By Pat Bigold

Mike Tyler said he's finding it tougher and tougher to take the corner these days.

But the 6-foot-1, 221-pound Air Force inside linebacker from Randolph, N.J., might have easily cornered the market on courage in Christmas day's Jeep Oahu Bowl.

"He's got a heart bigger than a 500-pound gorilla," said inside linebackers coach Richard Bell.

Two days after the Falcons defeated Colorado State, 30-27, on Sept. 17, Tyler realized a football player's bleakest nightmare.

He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while doing a cut blocking drill early in practice.

His doctors and trainers all urged him to have surgery right away, but Tyler elected to keep playing.

''My mom said she didn't want to see me play in pain but she said, 'If you can do it, do it, but be careful,' " said Tyler.

So he continued to play on one leg, mostly on first and second downs, and helped the Falcons to a No. 16 ranking in the Associated Press poll, an 11-1 record, the Western Athletic Conference title and a bowl berth in Hawaii.

''It'll pop occasionally, or twist and it just feels like you're hyper-extending it all the time," said Tyler.

''But it's nothing you can't live with. It hurts at night mostly."

But Tyler conceded that the worst kind of surface to play on is turf, and that's what Aloha Stadium will roll out for him.

''But when I play the game, I don't really think about it because it takes me out of my game. It's usually after the game when I'm really, really achy."

Asked if he takes anything for the pain before each game, Tyler said he takes a couple of Motrin tablets.

''They won't shoot you up before a game because they said if I can't play with the pain, I can't play."

After the injury, Tyler spent a lot of time on the treadmill and bike. He said he also did a lot of leg extensions and leg curls to get the muscles around the knee to hold it in place.

Tyler has somehow managed to continue being a menace to opposing offenses.

He had a bunch of tackles against Brigham Young in the WAC championship game on Dec. 5 and he actually intercepted a pass in Air Force's 22-16 home field victory against Rice on Nov. 21 and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown.

It wasn't just any touchdown. It clinched the WAC Mountain Division crown.

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