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Kemoeatu will play this time


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POSTED: Wednesday, January 28, 2009

TAMPA, Fla. » As the ring of reporters expanded around Chris Kemoeatu, the shy big man from the North Shore of Oahu didn't shrink away.

 

;
Chris Kemoeatu:
Has filled in admir-
ably as a replacement
for All-Pro Alan Faneca

 

As he has on the football field, the Pittsburgh Steelers' starting left guard grew into his role at Super Bowl XLIII media day yesterday.

The questions were repetitive, but ones he didn't mind addressing. In fact, they made him smile.

What's it like to be starting this time?

How do you feel about replacing a legend, Alan Faneca?

How about playing against your Kahuku High School teammate, Cardinals safety Aaron Francisco, and representing Hawaii?

               

     

 

SUPER BOWL XLIII

        » Who: Steelers vs. Cardinals
» When: 1 p.m. Sunday
» Where: Tampa, Fla.
» TV: KHNL, Ch. 8
» Line: Steelers by 7
       

       

Again and again.

All Kemoeatu did was keep grinning and keep answering.

“;Actually playing in the game this time, that's what I'm really excited about,”; said Kemoeatu, who was a raw rookie on the bench three years ago when the Steelers beat the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL. He suited up for just one game that year and didn't play in the finale.

Last fall he took over for Faneca, the eight-time Pro Bowler who left for the New York Jets via free agency after the 2007 season.

               

     

 

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Arizona Cardinals

        at Tampa, Fla., Sunday, 1 p m. Hawaii time
       

       

“;I learned a lot from Alan,”; Kemoeatu said. “;He's one of the best guards in the NFL.”;

At 6-foot-3 and 344 pounds, Kemoeatu, who started every game this season, has been described as “;a wrecking ball.”;

Ben Roethlisberger said his left guard has steadily improved in his first year as a starter. The Steelers quarterback said he hopes Kemoeatu and the rest of the offensive line have 60 minutes of solid football left in them.

“;Chris is just one of a group of guys up there who have done such a tremendous job filling in for injured guys, or for a great guy like Alan Faneca who left. That whole unit has done an amazing job,”; Roethlisberger said yesterday. “;This is Chris' first year playing, and he's kind of hitting that rookie wall, even though he's not a rookie, because he's played in so many games. I told him, 'Come on, give me one more good game, and then we'll be just fine.' He's a good player.”;

In addition to the improved play that elevated him to a starter, coaches and teammates said Kemoeatu is known for his generosity and positive demeanor.

“;I got picked up on the team at the end of the year,”; said backup defensive tackle Scott Paxson. “;I needed a place to stay and so Chris let me stay in his apartment. He's a great guy.”;

Head coach Mike Tomlin said Kemoeatu, who turned 26 this month, is starting to display the leadership traits that made him a standout two-way performer on Kahuku's 2000 state championship team and at the University of Utah.

“;He has a pleasant personality and he loves what he does,”; Tomlin said. “;He's one of those guys the others gravitate to.”;

Many questions were directed to Kemoeatu and Francisco about going up against their old Red Raiders teammate from nearly a decade ago.

“;I'm happy to be playing in the same Super Bowl as him and it will give people back home something to look forward to,”; Francisco said.

Said Kemoeatu: “;I'm excited to be one of the players from the islands.”;

Kemoeatu said he will look for Francisco before the game to exchange pleasantries, and then it will be all business.

“;I told myself to realize that I'm at the Super Bowl and that I need to take this seriously,”; Kemoeatu said.

Because this time he's going to play.