Safety looks to break from pack


POSTED: Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Kenny Estes didn't spend much time as a spectator growing up.

Through his senior year at Waimea High, Estes had little down time while competing in football, soccer and track.





        » Height: 6-0

» Weight: 200


» Class: Sophomore


» Hometown: Waimea, Kauai


» Position: Safety


» Quotable: “;I've been trimming down and felt like I got faster, quicker, more agility. I knew I was lacking speed last year. This year I watched my weight, watched what I eat.”;




Moving up to college meant trimming his schedule and waiting his turn. Now he's putting the time he spent observing into practice while competing for playing time in the Hawaii secondary.

“;Just over the years I watched what the older guys did and just built off that,”; Estes said.

With those veterans leaving the program last season, Estes—no relation to senior center John Estes—is eyeing a prominent role at safety come the fall.

He's making a case in the spring by making a few big plays in practice, including an interception followed by a nice return in last Saturday's scrimmage.

Estes has been working primarily with the second unit this spring, rotating in with the first unit at times in recent practices.

“;He's got to continue to develop, but he's come a long way,”; UH associate coach Rich Miano said.

“;You see the work ethic he has in the weight room and his preparation, he wants to start this year. He has that attitude and it's the right attitude.”;

Estes arrived at UH in 2006 following a standout career as a multi-sport athlete at Waimea. He was the Kauai Interscholastic Federation offensive player of the year in 2005, and also made the first team as a defensive back, kicker and punter. His 50-yard field goal was a KIF record at the time.

When football season finished at Waimea, Estes would transition into soccer in the winter, then straight to track and field in the spring, running the 100 and 200 meters and the 4x100 relay.

“;They were pretty much even all throughout high school,”; Estes said.

Football became Estes' focus after graduation, but he picked up some weight when he started living on the Manoa campus, which cost him some of the speed he displayed in high school.

Coming into the spring, he made an effort to drop the extra pounds to pick up a step on the field.

“;I've been trimming down and felt like I got faster, quicker, more agility,”; said Estes, who also dealt with an injury that limited his action last fall. “;I knew I was lacking speed last year. This year I watched my weight, watched what I eat.”;

The effects of his new look have been evident to the coaches.

“;You see his speed, you see him accelerate to the ball, you see his pursuit, that guy is a different guy,”; Miano said.

While soccer is no longer part of his schedule, Estes hasn't completely kicked his bug for kicking. He was booting field goals after a practice last week and was practicing kickoffs with Brett Symonds on Monday.

“;I love kicking,”; he said.


Name game

As his moniker indicates, Melvin “;Tank”; Hopkins doesn't shy away from collisions.

“;When I was little my mom gave it to me,”; Hopkins said. “;I used to run into stuff and knock stuff over.”;

Listed at 5-foot-9, 165 pounds, Hopkins' nickname might seem an odd fit. But that tendency serves him well while playing cornerback for the Warriors.

Hopkins, a transfer from Navarro (Texas) College, enrolled at UH this semester and has been working with the first unit at left cornerback since Chris Black injured his ankle in the first week of spring practice.

“;Usually (JC transfers) just line up and play man coverages,”; Miano said. “;We ask a lot more technique and coverages and Tank has really caught on well.”;