Star-Bulletin Sports

Saturday, January 26, 2002


NFL Hawaii

Pittsburgh fans
loving ‘Fu’ and Kimo

The Steeler teammates are making
the most of their playoff experience

By Nick Abramo

This is a most special time for Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala and Kimo von Oelhoffen.

They're the pride of Hawaii, members of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who meet the New England Patriots tomorrow for the right to play in the Super Bowl.

Fuamatu-Ma'afala and von Oelhoffen are also becoming cult heroes in the Steel City.

"They're putting up lots of signs in the stadium for me and Kimo," said running back Fuamatu-Ma'afala, a former St. Louis School and Utah standout. "They've got one of me catching a wave and Kimo playing ukulele, all kinds of different signs -- 'The Flyin' Hawaiian' ... 'The Throwin' Samoan' and I don't know what that's supposed to mean," he added, referring to the latter example.

A T-shirt that reads "Shut your mouth, he's a bad Ma'afala!" has already sold out, prompting a new order to feed the fans' demand. The T-shirt was inspired by ESPN's Chris Berman, who shouts out the saying when "Fu" appears on the highlight reels.

"The people are going crazy, they want more," Fuamatu-Ma'afala said.

Every time he touched the ball in Pittsburgh's 27-10 divisional playoff victory over the Baltimore Ravens last week, the fans bellowed "Fu!"

He rushed for 30 yards on 10 carries in the game, while von Oelhoffen, a Molokai High School graduate and former Boise State standout, made three tackles.

Von Oelhoffen didn't escape the notice of Dan Dierdorf of CBS-TV during the game. Dierdorf said the Steelers' defensive line of von Oelhoffen and Aaron Smith at the ends and Casey Hampton at nose tackle is an unheralded bunch compared to the team's linebacking corps, but a big reason why Pittsburgh has so much success in stopping the run.

Fu, a backup to starter Jerome Bettis, appeared on Bettis' TV show earlier this week along with Amos Zereoue, another Steelers' running back.

"It was crazy," he said. "It's a real small area, and there were over 2,000 people there. It was over-full, man."

Earlier in the year, Fu appeared on Bettis' show with the 6-foot-3, 297-pound von Oelhoffen, who is an eight-year NFL veteran and will turn 31 Wednesday.

According to Fuamatu-Ma'afala, the Steelers are focusing on beating New England and not looking ahead to a possible Super Bowl appearance.

"They (the Patriots' defense) have so many different looks," he said. "It won't be like playing Baltimore, where you line up and they line up and may the best man win. With so many fronts, we gotta recognize them and be ready to pick up the blitz.

"We're not worrying about the Rams (or Eagles) right now, we're focusing on these guys (Patriots), and we feel like we can go all the way as long as we take care of 'us.' "

This is by far the best and closest-knit team the 24-year-old, 6-foot, 255-pound, four-year NFL veteran has been on.

"After last season, we knew we were a physical team, and we really turned it on this season," he said. "And everybody is cool with everybody. There's a lot of unselfish guys on the team, taking up lesser roles and trying to contribute in any way they can (such as) special teams, and that's the biggest plus. We also have guys going downfield and making blocks, and, as running backs, that's something we can feed off of."

Getting to -- and winning --the Super Bowl would fulfill more than a lifelong dream for Fu.

He dedicated this season to his brother Nick Ma'afala, who passed away last year after a long illness.

"God knows that I love my brother, and I'm giving it up to him. He's my angel looking over my shoulder."

After each of his four touchdowns this year, Fu knelt in the end zone, looked up and lifted the ball to the heavens.

"I gotta give him some TV time," he said.

And, you never know, maybe a Super Bowl victory, too.

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