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Savaiigaea fits inspiration in a much smaller package


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POSTED: Friday, August 07, 2009

It's time to talk about football, not foot in mouth.

It's been a week. Yesterday was the first day of practice, so now maybe we really can finally put Hawaii coach Greg McMackin's mistake at Salt Lake to rest in the sports pages (that is, until questions the week leading up to the first Hawaii road game when the Seattle media covering Washington State surely brings it up).

And I know just the guy who can make us forget about everything else, so we can focus on football and the other good stuff. If you follow the Warriors you know him, too. Rocky Savaiigaea, senior defensive tackle from Aiea.

He's been the ultimate team guy, even when he's had good reason to slink off to a quiet corner and sulk.

Inspirational people know their kind when they see it. Here's what Brian Kajiyama, the Warriors student assistant who works magic from his wheelchair, thinks of Savaiigaea.

“;Last year when he was injured, he still would show up at practices and games to show his support for the TEAM,”; Kajiyama says. “;He was disappointed with his injury, and tried to come back after surgery, and realized it would not work. Despite his frustration, he continued to show up for all team functions. Rocky is someone who leads by example ... and when he does speak, players listen because they truly respect him as a player, a friend, and as a person.”;

He's more positive than the Octomom's pregnancy test. McMackin says Rocky is ready to make a big impact.

“;He's really working hard. He's got great quickness, great power, he's just been unfortunate in getting hurt. He had an excellent spring, he's a hundred percent. He's strong, he's quick, he's got a great attitude. He's a leader. He's a guy who guys will follow. He just has to get his opportunity and make the most of it.”;

And Savaiigaea is a link to happier times. He played meaningful downs on the 2006 and 2007 teams that went 23-4.

You'll be seeing a lot less of Rocky this fall. That's because there are only 305 pounds of him left. Actually, as you read, it's probably closer to the 295 he wants to play at this season.

He checked in at Chad Ikei's performance center in Arizona at 336 three weeks ago and returned in the greatest shape of his life.

“;(Savaiigaea) was driven and worked extremely hard and the end result was amazing, he dropped over 10 percent body fat in three weeks, not to mention 31 pounds,”; Ikei says. “;He not only lost the weight but he also ended up adding 8 pounds of solid muscle, that's incredible.”;

If the UH defense plays well enough to get to a fourth consecutive bowl game, McMackin might want to put Ikei on the ring list. Linebackers Brashton Satele and Mana Lolotai also worked out this summer with the former world record-holding weightlifter.

“;Three weeks of top-notch training,”; Savaiigaea says. “;I always knew about (Ikei), from Tala (Esera), Reagan Mauia. He's strict with you. It's all training. Monday through Saturday, no distractions.

“;He breaks everything down. Correct lifting form, running form.”;

Savaiigaea says his biggest challenge is eating right, and Ikei addresses that, too.

“;You have small portions, and you're hungry, but you're eating a lot of the time (meals and snacks) so you don't worry about it.”;

He used to be first to the buffet line. Now, with his new physique, Rocky Savaiigaea is the one UH wants opponents seeing first off the bus.

Reach Star-Bulletin sports columnist Dave Reardon at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), his “;Quick Reads”; blog at starbulletin.com, and twitter.com/davereardon.