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Star-Bulletin Sports

Thursday, January 18, 2001

H U L A _ B O W L

Hula Bowl

Brooks to join
UH teammates
in Hula Bowl

Now there's five Warriors
in Saturday's college all-star
football game on Maui

By Paul Arnett

WAILUKU, Maui -- It's too bad University of Hawaii linebacker Rinda Brooks couldn't catch a flight in time to attend yesterday's Hula Bowl practice.

He missed an impromptu session after yesterday's workout with the National Football League scouts aimed at timing fellow Warriors Dee Miller, Robert Kemfort and James Fenderson in a variety of drills.

Hula Bowl chief operating officer Lenny Klompus added Brooks to the roster after Southern California's Marcus Steele failed to show for Saturday's 55th annual Hula Bowl at Maui's War Memorial Stadium.

"I contacted (UH secondary coach) Rich Miano this morning to see if Rinda could make it in time for our Wednesday practice,'' Klompus said yesterday. "I guess he just couldn't get a flight. But we're happy to have him. He should fit in well with the quality athletes already on the Aina team."

Miller and Fenderson have caught the eyes of several NFL scouts, who project both players as late-round draft choices or high-profile free agents. One scout said Fenderson was a perfect athlete for special teams -- and tough to cut from the final roster.

The UH running back was a late addition to the Hula Bowl roster and is just glad to get the opportunity to show what he can do. At the start of the season, he never imagined being in the position he's in this week on Maui.

"Getting individual attention like this is why you want to be in a game like this," Fenderson said. "It's one thing to send film. But here, you get to work out in the drills, play with all these great athletes and get a chance to be around coaches like (Florida State's Bobby Bowden).

"I didn't weigh as much as I thought I did (188 instead of 195), but that's OK. I just want to get an opportunity to play for somebody and this is a great chance for me. The Lord is definitely watching out for me."

Miller is opening some eyes as well with his speed, ability to backpedal and cover one-on-one. One drill run after yesterday's workout was a 10-yard backpedal and then turn to sprint 10 more yards to the finish line where a variety of scouts held stopwatches. Another drill involved running around several cones without knocking any of them over.

"It's fun, but it's also business," Miller said. "I'm healthy now for the first time all year. I was bothered by that hamstring, but I'm OK now. I feel good. This is a chance to take care of my family by making it at the next level.

"Playing with all these great athletes to see how you match up is what it's all about. The practices are probably as important as the game. You want to make an impression on every play. All of us are trying to do that out here."

Big Doug Sims has certainly caught the eye of the Aina coaching staff, particularly Utah head coach Ron McBride. The scouts have cameras trained on particular NFL drills, including one-on-one matches between the offensive and defensive linemen.

During one play yesterday, Sims was over Duke center Troy Andrew. As soon as the whistle blew, Sims plowed into, over and around Andrew to get to an imaginary quarterback in less than two seconds, prompting McBride to say, "That a way to go, Truck. That's what they're looking for out here."

Sims' quickness, especially for his size, has impressed the scouts. The senior tackle for Hawaii has been busy filling out questionnaires all week.

"The heat is the thing I've noticed most," Sims said. "It's a dry heat compared to the practice fields at UH. I feel like I'm doing well. I just have to keep after it. This is the opportunity of a lifetime for me."

Linebacker Robert Kemfort also took part in yesterday's drills. His mother has been at every session, looking down on her son from the top of a hill overlooking the practice facility that was once a local soccer field.

There's little question of Kemfort's athletic ability. But because he played so many positions in college -- running back, wide receiver, linebacker -- it was tough to figure out where the scouts were going to put him in practice. He will play outside linebacker in the game.

"Being out here is an honor,'' Kemfort said. "To get to play one last time on Maui, well, I couldn't ask for anything more than that. I would like to play professionally. This is my chance. If I can make a good impression on the scouts, who knows how it may turn out for me later on."


Contract renewal

WAILUKU, Maui -- American Football Coaches Association director Grant Teaff said negotiations with Hula Bowl officials are under way to continue their working relationship with the 55th annual college all-star game.

The AFCA is entering the final year of its current contract with the Hula Bowl, but all indications are that a new multi-year deal will be ironed out in the next few weeks.

"I've been very pleased with everything," Teaff said. "We've made so much progress. Just the joy that I've had of being a part of bringing the game to Maui and the response of the people here has been wonderful.

"I take great pride that our divisional coaches, who would never have this kind of opportunity, not only get to rub elbows with the great Division I-A coaches, but they get to exhibit the kind of ability they have. It's a tremendous tribute to them and we're very grateful for that.''

Hula Bowl chief operating officer Lenny Klompus said yesterday that preliminary dialogue with Teaff already has begun.

"We'll begin serious negotiations for the 2002 game and beyond about a month after this game,'' Klompus said. "I think everybody is happy with how this game has progressed the past four years. Coming to Maui and our association with the AFCA has been tremendous. We already have announced that Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops will be here for our game next year.''

Sponsors for awards possible

Teaff wants to look at possible sponsors for the national awards given each year to the top Division I, Division I-AA, Division II and Division III coaches. is sponsoring the game through 2002 with an option for 2003. ESPN-TV has a similar contract.

"ESPN is very enthused about doing our game,'' Klompus said. "They are bringing five announcers, led by Chris Fowler, and they will have a SportsCenter set in the end zone on Saturday. We're very pleased with how things are now.''

Teaff also praised Klompus for allowing the AFCA to not only choose the coaches for the game, but to have a committee selecting the players as well.

"There are a lot of different things that go into the selection of these players,'' Teaff said. "First of all, they have to be recommended by the head coaches of the team. We not only want quality athletes, but quality people. And I think we've done that.

"Having the NFL have a direct involvement by running certain drills has also helped in our game. This year's group is outstanding in so many ways. We have come a long way the last four years. And we just want to keep making it better and better for all concerned.''

Not sunk in just yet

University of Oklahoma defensive back J.T. Thatcher hasn't had a lot of time to reflect on his accomplishment of winning a national championship. The Mosi Tatupu Award winner, given to the top special teams player, spent the past couple of weeks staying in shape and preparing for this Saturday's Hula Bowl.

"I just haven't had a lot of time to think about it,'' Thatcher said after yesterday's practice. "It just hasn't sunk in yet. But I'm sure after this week, when I get home and relax a little bit, I'll realize that we are the national champions and how special that is for me and my teammates.''

Thatcher didn't even know he had won the special teams award until a few days before the ceremony in Florida. There, he met Maxwell Award winner Drew Brees, who will be across from Thatcher in this year's Hula Bowl.

"I've got to keep my eye on him during the game because he's an excellent safety,'' Brees said. "It shouldn't be too difficult. He wears the same jersey number (15) as I do. We met at the awards ceremony. He seemed like a nice guy.''

Thatcher and his Sooner teammates wreaked havoc on Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke in the national championship game. He hopes to do more of the same this weekend.

"It's all business now,'' Thatcher said. "You're here to impress the scouts and see if you can improve your position in the draft. I'm excited about this opportunity. You have fun off the field, but you're all business on it.''

Paul Arnett, Star-Bulletin

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