Tuesday, December 25, 2001

10 who made a difference

Nick Rolovich
UH's backup quarterback steps up to lead a successful season

Warriors quarterback
shines on and off the field

Each year, the Star-Bulletin recognizes 10 people who made a difference over the past 12 months. Whether deserving of honor or controversy, the criterion is that they made a profound impact on Hawaii. Here is the third exceptional individual.

By Dave Reardon

Nick Rolovich always knew he was one play away from emerging out of the shadows and back into the state's brightest athletic spotlight: University of Hawaii starting quarterback.

He had a taste of it in 2000. But his first go-round was unsuccessful and he was benched. All he could do was work hard and wait for another chance.

The senior from Novato, Calif., began the 2001 season as sophomore Tim Chang's backup. He ended it as a record-breaking hero who took the Warriors from the brink of disaster to within a notch of a national ranking.

When Rolovich took over for the injured Chang, UH was 1-2 and facing a road game at Southern Methodist.

Rolovich's determination was a big factor in the Warriors' overtime victory over the Mustangs -- the turning point of the season.

For Rolovich, it was just the beginning.

University of Hawaii quarterback Nick Rolovich got a hug from coach June Jones as he was introduced for the senior walk after the Warriors' Dec. 8 win over Brigham Young.

Week after week, his understanding of the complicated run-and-shoot offense improved.

And so did the Warriors' record, which included an upset of nationally ranked Fresno State, thanks to Rolovich's touchdown pass to Ashley Lelie with 13 seconds left.

By the time UH began preparing to play rival Brigham Young on Dec. 8, Hawaii had won seven of its eight games with Rolovich triggering the offense.

He had already broken several school passing records. Against Miami (Ohio), he threw for 500 yards and seven touchdowns, against Air Force, 505 yards and five touchdowns.

Those were just warm-ups.

Against BYU, Rolovich passed for eight touchdowns and 543 yards, and earned an invitation to the Hula Bowl as the Warriors pummeled the Cougars 72-45.

The quarterback is the undeniable on-field leader of a football team. How he relates to the other players -- and not just those on offense -- is just as important as all the yards and touchdown passes.

Even before he regained his starting position, Rolovich was one of the team's most popular players.


A lot of it had to do with the way he handled his benching. Rolovich never complained, improving the Warriors' team-first culture. Then, when he got his second chance, he made the most of it.

Rolovich handled the spotlight as well as he did the shadows.

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