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Welcome to the final countdown


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POSTED: Thursday, July 30, 2009

You may already know the names of the top five Centurions, since we announced them last week. In the following pages, we reveal their order, along with their profiles (as well as a recap of the other 95).

The final five come from different places and different eras and play different positions. They reflect the diversity of the program and Hawaii culture. And, obviously, they are the greatest players in the first century of UH football.

When I was in high school, Gary Allen (1978-81) was the guy I wanted to be. Just needed a lot more speed, strength and toughness.

He's the most exciting college running back I've ever seen up close. Allen was one of the reasons the NCAA did away with tearaway jerseys. It just made the game too unfair for all those faked-out defenders left with just a handful of cheap cloth while Allen danced away to another big gain.

We learned what “;turf toe”; is because of him, and that running on the Aloha Stadium concrete disguised as a playing surface was like a thousand little daggers stabbing into your foot.

Colt Brennan (2005-07) is the most accurate passer I've yet to witness, and one of the most savvy competitors. He, more than any other player, allowed an entire football-crazy state to live out a dream by getting to a BCS game. He's also the embodiment of what a second chance can bring about.

It's been 20 months since his unmatched UH career ended. Why are we waiting to retire the jersey number of a man who was third for the Heisman?

A kicker? Yeah, you got a problem with that? Jason Elam (1988-92) is one of the greatest at his position in the history of the game—and not just college. At UH, he dominated from the start of his career to the end. He beat Iowa in his first game, and he beat Illinois in the Holiday Bowl in his last game.

His presence altered the way coaches game-planned, making it easier for the Rainbows, harder for their foes. If he'd played in a brand-name conference, he'd have been first-team All-American at least twice. As it is, he may make the NFL Hall of Fame.

People talk about beating BYU being better than statehood. Tommy Kaulukukui (1934-37) actually helped Hawaii attain its star on Old Glory—in a couple of different ways.

Mainlanders had no idea what to expect when Tommy and his teammates arrived by ship to play UCLA in 1935 ... maybe they envisioned a bunch of guys who looked like Vili the Warrior. They surely didn't have a 103-yard kickoff return in mind. Tommy and his boys gave the islands credibility in an American activity, just a few years after annexation.

During World War II, he served as an officer in the storied 442nd.

The only one of these five with whom I've tipped a glass also almost knocked my head off. Al Noga (1984-87) could be as mean off the field as on it. But the last time I saw him he was very pleasant, as Nick Abramo and I shared a bar and jokes with him, about five years ago.

About 20 years ago, some fool decides we're going to play man-to-man in a pickup hoops game at Gym 2, and I get the Sack Man, home from the NFL. Somehow I shut him out, and we win. As I'm walking to the water fountain, a basketball whizzes by my head. I turn around to see Mr. Noga staring me down from 10 feet away. I'm part of the winning five of the first game of the evening, but decide to just go home—and pray Al isn't following me. If all those college linemen and quarterbacks couldn't stand up to him, what chance would I have?

That's the top five ... read on to learn the order of their rankings and more about how they made their marks. Mahalo to everyone who assisted us in this two-month project, and to everyone who took some time to peruse even a small part of it.

 

Dave Reardon is the Star-Bulletin's sports columnist. “;