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Sapolu pays a visit


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POSTED: Friday, April 17, 2009

The scenery has changed a bit since Jesse Sapolu toiled on the fields of the University of Hawaii's lower campus.

“;I'm a little jealous,”; Sapolu said. “;The facilities are much nicer.”;

Sapolu, a former UH center and four-time Super Bowl champion with the San Francisco 49ers, returned yesterday to visit the Warriors' practice and spoke to the team during a break about halfway through the session.

“;Our tradition is built by the great players we've had here at Hawaii. ... He's a legend,”; Warriors coach Greg McMackin said. “;He's somebody who we're really proud of at the University of Hawaii, who made it not only in sports but in life, and he's a great example to this football team.”;

Sapolu played for UH from 1979 to '82 and went on to a 15-year career with the 49ers, a mainstay at center during San Francisco's run of championships in the 1980s and '90s. He returned to Hawaii to play in the Pro Bowl three times and was inducted into the UH Circle of Honor in 2000.

“;It's just cool to see him out here,”; said Warriors center John Estes, who grew up as a 49ers fan. “;I tried to soak up what he said and listen to him. He's been there and played at the highest level. Four-time Super Bowl champion—not that many people can say that.”;

Sapolu was among the offensive linemen from those early '80s teams who went on to distinguished careers after UH. Among those he played with were UH athletic director Jim Donovan and Kauai mayor Bernard Carvalho. Jim Mills was recently elected to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

Sapolu lives in Orange County, but still works for the 49ers as an alumni coordinator. He hopes he'll be able to watch one of his sons play at UH someday. London Sapolu is a defensive tackle at Orange Coast College. Roman Sapolu is a junior center at Edison High School, and recently committed to Oregon State, though Hawaii has offered him a scholarship as well.

“;They didn't offer me anything until my senior year and then they all came at one time,”; Jesse Sapolu said, “;but things are different now.”;