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He liked to break stuff


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POSTED: Monday, June 22, 2009

Heikoti Fakava just kept those legs pumping.

One tackle broken. Another evaded. Then those last few powerful strides over the goal line.

It was a statement as much as a score. Iowa brought the beef, the big names, the national ranking into Aloha Stadium on the evening of Sept. 3, 1988—and none of it mattered to the Rainbow Warriors.

"We always had that chip on our shoulder that we can hang with all of these teams," Fakava recalled. "They might bench press more than we can or run faster, but we'd rely on our heart and guts to compete with those guys. ... You have to perform on the field."

Fakava churned out 99 often punishing yards and scored twice that night when the Rainbows toppled the No. 9 Hawkeyes 27-24, still the program's second biggest upset in terms of ranking.

The performance epitomized a career in which Fakava reveled in busting through challenges like so many would-be tacklers.

Coming out of Moanalua High School, Fakava first had to show he could handle the academic workload in college. Having steadied himself in the classroom, he then had to prove he could make a Division I roster as a walk on.

Then it was earning a scholarship. Then winning a starting job. Then demonstrating he could fit into a new offensive scheme. Then helping the Rainbows prove they could hang with the big boys.

"My whole thing was, 'just get me on the field,' " said Fakava, who factored into two wins over Big Ten opponents, Wisconsin in 1986 and Iowa in 1988.

Fakava's willingness to absorb contact earned him a job as a lead blocker his first two years in Dick Tomey's offense. When Tomey left for Arizona and Bob Wagner was hired in 1987, Fakava claimed a more prominent role in the offense as the single back in the triple-option system installed by new offensive coordinator Paul Johnson.

Fakava prepared for the change by sneaking off to New Zealand for the summer for some offseason training not exactly endorsed by the coaching staff.

"I had to adapt," he said. "I did what I felt was the best thing for me, and that was play rugby. ... When I came back I was faster than I'd ever been and I felt like I could compete with the tailbacks.

"I think I fit in because I played fullback and it was a natural transition to be able to take the pounding on the inside and fulfill that role and make some runs when you got that chance."

As the first read in the option, Fakava averaged 4.7 yards per carry while scoring 16 touchdowns as a junior. He set a school record with five touchdowns against Yale, a mark that stood alone for 17 years before being matched by Chad Owens in 2004.

He began his senior year with the landmark win over Iowa, leaving the game on several occasions only to later return to the huddle.

"I was kind of beaten up a little bit," said Fakava, who scored on a 28-yard run and a 1-yard plunge that tied the game in the fourth quarter. "They had some big guys and it's one thing for them to hit you and another when they land on you."

When the Rainbows bookended the 1988 season with a win over Oregon, Fakava left the program with 2,111 yards, good for third on Hawaii's all-time list at the time, and a then-record 31 rushing touchdowns.

Fakava got a brief look with the Seattle Seahawks after leaving Manoa, but soon decided to change directions in his career path. He now works as a deputy in the sheriff's department in San Mateo, Calif.

"I enjoyed every bit I had playing at UH and I'm thankful for everybody who helped me along the way," he said.

 

Jason Kaneshiro covers UH football for the Star-Bulletin. We reveal five more all-time greats tomorrow.