Bess' loyalty to UH led to NFL


POSTED: Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ron Lee can laugh about that night in Fresno now.

The Hawaii offensive coordinator was coaching the Warriors receivers in 2004, when he thought one of his first encounters with Davone Bess might be his last.

Seems Bess had decided to make the drive into the Central Valley to catch Hawaii's game against Fresno State. Now he was among those lingering outside Bulldog Stadium after the host team laid a 70-14 beating on the Warriors.

“;We shook hands and I remember getting into the bus and thinking, 'I don't know if I'm going to see Davone again,' “; Lee recalled with a chuckle.

Fortunately for the Warriors, the 56-point drubbing did little to dissuade Bess from eventually signing with the program.

Bess had already grown familiar with adversity and if the Hawaii coaches were willing to give him the opportunity he craved, well, he wouldn't abandon them after one lopsided loss.

“;I gave them my verbal already and I'm a man of my word,”; Bess said.

Over the next three years, Bess ascended the program's receiving charts, helped the Warriors reach unprecedented heights and ultimately worked his way into the NFL.

Now preparing for his second season with the Miami Dolphins, Bess still reflects on the twists that led him to Hawaii and the abiding impact of that decision.

“;I think about that all the time,”; Bess said. “;I'm a true believer that everything happens for a reason.

“;They gave me an opportunity to come here and play and I took advantage of it and it put me on a plateau to be successful and work as hard as I can to maintain that success.”;

Ask Lee about Bess and “;work ethic”; is liberally peppered into the conversation.

Blessed with hands that clung to just about everything thrown to him, Bess worked diligently to improve them, snaring ball after ball fired out of the Jugs machine before and after practices.

When he left after his junior year, those hands had secured a school-record 293 passes, including 41 touchdowns, covering 3,610 yards.

“;He has a tremendous feel for where to be,”; Lee said. “;He made it look easy. He's not a 4.4 (40-yard dash) guy, but he has the quickness to make guys miss and he has that savvy.”;

Bess' willingness to work sprung from his upbringing and the opportunity that nearly escaped his grasp.

Born to a teen mother, Bess watched Chinell Carpenter toil just to get by as she raised young Davone and his little brother in Oakland.

“;She had to work hard to keep the lights on and put food on the table and make sure we were OK, and she made it happen,”; Bess said. “;That's my inspiration and motivation.”;

Bess appeared on the verge of converting his efforts into a college scholarship after a standout career at Skyline High. But shortly after graduation, Bess let some friends put stolen goods into his car. When they were caught, he shared in the punishment, 15 months in a juvenile detention center.

His ride to Oregon State went with it and when Hawaii offered him another shot after his release, he viewed the islands as a chance to “;start a whole new life, a new chapter.”;

“;My big thing is (then-UH head coach June Jones) took a big chance in giving me a second opportunity and I just didn't want to let him down,”; Bess said. “;I didn't want to let Hawaii down.”;

Once he got onto the field, Bess was both steady and spectacular in averaging over 92 yards per game while developing a bond with Colt Brennan, who also joined the program in 2005 searching for redemption.

After a 5-7 start to their careers, UH went 23-4 over the next two seasons. By the time Hawaii completed a 12-0 regular season in 2007 to capture the Western Athletic Conference title and a Sugar Bowl berth, the connection between Bess and his quarterback “;was all feel, all instinct.”;

“;It's all about repetition and staying on the same page with the quarterback and watching film,”; Bess said.

Bess entered the NFL Draft shortly after the team returned from New Orleans. But the numbers he produced on the field were apparently overruled by those he posted at the combine. The draft came and went without a call and he signed a free-agent contract with the Dolphins, disappointed at not being picked but energized by yet another challenge.

“;I got right over it, I had to, I had no other choice,”; he said. “;If I was going to be bitter, I probably wouldn't have had a shot at making the team. It was basically a reality check for me and brought me down to earth and kept me humble.”;

Bess made the roster and when an injury opened a spot in the lineup he emerged as one of the Dolphins' top producers with 54 receptions for 554 yards.

His rising profile does come with some side effects, though, including having an impostor on Twitter.

The culprit made several inflammatory statements while claiming to be Bess, including a post challenging speedy Titans running back Chris Johnson to a footrace.

“;That's crazy,”; Bess said. “;I just don't understand why somebody would want to go out and try to mess up another man's reputation. But I'm over it. I'm going to be the bigger man about it and put it behind me.

“;I talked to Chris Johnson and let him know it wasn't me. He understood and was cool about it, so it's all good.”;

Nearly two years after they last parted ways in Fresno, Lee and Bess returned to Bulldog Stadium. This time they left together on the other end of a blowout with Bess catching two touchdown passes in a 68-37 UH victory.

Taking a chance on each other paid off.

“;It changed my life,”; Bess said. “;It was a blessing.”;


Jason Kaneshiro covers UH football for the Star-Bulletin. Tomorrow we unveil No. 16. See starbulletin.com for more on “;The Centurions.”;