Sports Notebook

Kreutz feeling
right at home

By Dave Reardon

Olin Kreutz finally gets a home game tomorrow.

The second-time NFC all-star center played in around 20 games (including three Prep Bowl championships) at Aloha Stadium -- site of tomorrow's Pro Bowl -- as a standout performer for Saint Louis School in the 1990s.

But in the just-completed NFL season, Kreutz and his Chicago Bears teammates played their home games at the University of Illinois campus at Champaign-Urbana, a 2 1/2-hour trip from the Windy City.

The Bears won only three games at their adopted home downstate, but Kreutz won't use Soldier Field being renovated as an excuse for the team's poor showing. Injuries are the real reason for the drop from 13-3 and the playoffs the season before to 4-12, he said.

"I think the biggest thing in the NFL is just to stay healthy," Kreutz said after an NFC practice this week. "If you stay healthy you win games. We didn't do that this year. We had three or four guys on each side of the ball get hurt. When you lose that many starters you can't really compete well in the NFL."

Wide receiver Marty Booker stayed healthy, though -- and put up some healthy numbers. He caught 97 passes for 1,189 yards and six touchdowns, and is here for his first Pro Bowl. He, too, is no stranger to Aloha Stadium.

University of Hawaii fans might remember Booker as the middle man in a hook-and-ladder play that went for a 35-yard touchdown when Northeast Louisiana beat UH in overtime 23-20 in 1997.

"We'd been working on that just for that game," Booker recalled. "When you run trick plays in practice you never think you'll run them in the game. But I think we were a little desperate at the time, it was like third-and-20. Hey, we've come this far, we might as well let it loose. I was amazed and shocked when it worked."

Booker was almost a Rainbow; Bob Wagner recruited him to quarterback UH's spread offense.

"The guys from Hawaii came and visited me and everything. They faxed the letter of intent and everything for me to sign," Booker said. "But just looking at it, it was a long way from home. I never would have had a chance to come home and see my family for a long time. It would have been tough for me so I decided to stay close to home. I think I made the right decision, but it would have been nice to come out here and play."

Hall of Famers recognized: If Hank Stram's warmup speech was any indication, folks attending the next Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony had better pack a lunch and some extra sunscreen.

The gregarious former Kansas City Chiefs coach gave a 15-minute address when the Hall of Fame's class of 2003 was recognized yesterday.

Stram was joined by Marcus Allen, James Lofton, Joe DeLamielleure and Elvin Bethea on the dais. They'll be guests at tomorrow's game and several more events over the coming months until their induction on Aug. 3.

"To say I had fun playing would be an understatement," Lofton said. "Now that I think about it, I never officially announced my retirement. Maybe there's a chance I should be playing on Sunday."

Fines levied: Tampa Bay defensive end Simeon Rice and San Francisco wide receiver Terrell Owens were fined $4,000 each by the league for unexcused absences from the NFC's practice and a team meeting yesterday.

Both are still expected to play tomorrow.

Childress out in 49ers search: Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Brad Childress, who is here for to coach in tomorrow's game, was eliminated as a candidate for the San Francisco 49ers' head coaching vacancy.

Childress was among four coaches who have interviewed for the job, but the team plans to look "in a different direction," according to a statement from general manager Terry Donahue.

The three remaining candidates who have been interviewed are San Francisco defensive coordinator Jim Mora, New England defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel and New York Jets defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell.

No blackout: League officials called the game a sellout yesterday, lifting the live local TV blackout.

A few tickets will probably be available today and tomorrow because of returns, though.

Short yardage: Tampa Bay linebacker Derrick Brooks and cheerleaders Nicole Dupler of the 49ers and Courtney Paige Jarrett of the Ravens, as well as 49ers and Broncos mascots will be on hand at Macy's Ala Moana to sign autographs and meet fans this afternoon from 3:30 to 5:30. ... Kerry Chang, 10, a student at Assets School, won the Kraft Pro Bowl Tee-Kid Sweepstakes, and will retrieve the kicking tee after the game's opening kickoff.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Wide receivers Jerry Rice of Oakland and Eric Moulds of Buffalo prepared to run a play during the AFC practice for the Pro Bowl yesterday at the Ihilani Resort in Kapolei.

Tatupu Award winner
going out with
final big kick

By Cindy Luis

WAILUKU >> Punters are looked upon differently. Teams need them but don't want to have to use them.

"The bad thing is that no one wants to see us in the game," said Kai punter Glenn "Pak-Man" Pakulak. "It means your offense isn't doing well.

"If I do get out there, I hope I do well, kick the heck out of the ball and see what happens."

Pakulak is this year's winner of the Mosi Tatupu Special Teams Award and will receive the trophy from Tatupu at halftime of today's game. The award was created in 1997 to honor the top special teams player in college, which includes kick returners, punters, place-kickers and coverage specialists.

"It means a lot to me, to be chosen out of such a talented group of players this year," said Pakulak, the leading punter in Kentucky history with a 44.3-yard average. "I'm so excited. My parents are here, my aunt and uncle are here.

"I've seen highlights of (Tatupu). It's just such an honor."

Tatupu, who played in the 1979 Hula Bowl, was a standout player at Punahou School and Southern California. He retired from the NFL in 1992 after setting a league record for most games played by a running back while competing for the New England Patriots.

Lahaina noon: It had a different meaning yesterday at the Lahaina Rec Center field.

Due to a change to accommodate the Hula Bowl halftime show practice, the Kai team arrived right after noon, some three hours later than originally scheduled. Practice was light and lasted just over an hour.

The Aina team practiced at the appointed time of 11 a.m. but cut it short by 30 minutes to allow the players the afternoon free.

Heisman hoopla: Six former Heisman Trophy winners have been here to participate in the celebrity golf tournament and other festivities this week.

Attending today's pregame brunch and the college all-star game are: Ty Detmer (BYU, 1990), Mike Rozier (Nebraska, 1983), George Rodgers (South Carolina, 1980), Johnny Rogers (Nebraska, 1972), Howard Cassady (1955, Ohio State) and John Lattmer (Notre Dame, 1953).

During a radio interview yesterday morning, Detmer said that he had bittersweet memories of Hawaii. On the same day that the Cougar quarterback was awarded the Heisman, his BYU team was routed by Hawaii 59-28 at Aloha Stadium.

Real Homecoming: Hawaii-born Kawika Mitchell left the islands when he was 3 after the military transferred his father to Kentucky. Nearly 20 years later, Mitchell is back and will be playing in front of his family for the first time in his career.

"It feels pretty good to be back," said Mitchell, a four-year starter at outside linebacker for South Florida. "It will be a fun time, playing with all this great talent and finally playing in front of my family."

Mitchell's father and brother are flying over from their home in Kailua-Kona for the game. The two have never seen Kawika play in person, but saw the USF record holder for single-season tackles (117) on television when South Florida played at Oklahoma last year.

Mitchell, who spent summers on the Big Island, said he thought about playing for the Warriors "for about a second but their recruiting needs were different and it seemed too far away" from his Florida home.

Homecoming II: Also back playing in front of family and friends is Harvard's record-setting quarterback Neil Rose. The former Pac-Five quarterback from Mililani owns or shares 18 Crimson career marks.

"It's a real pleasure and honor to play with so many great players here," said Rose, one of the Kai quarterbacks. "It's more than I expected.

"I think I'll be ready to hang up the cleats after the game. Whatever happens after the game happens. I'm playing like it's my last game ever, which it will probably be. I'm looking forward to having fun."

Opala talking: The Aina team has two Warriors on it, with four on the Kai. Still, Hawaii wide receiver Justin Colbert likes the Aina's chances.

"See this jersey? This tells it all," said Colbert. "We've got a lot of talent, two really good quarterbacks. We've been practicing hard and everyone is ready to showcase their talent.

"The Kai is going to come out and play hard but, unfortunately, I think they'll come up a little short. We're going to come up with the victory."

Colbert is expecting to also be receiving punts, which would pit him against former teammate Mat McBriar, a punter for the Kai. It would be nothing new for Colbert, who returned McBriar kicks during Hawaii's practices.

The 5-foot-8 receiver said he's talked to a few scouts here and liked what he heard.

"They were impressed with some of the things," said Colbert. "So I'll continue to work hard and do the things that got me here."

"I wish Justin the best," said McBriar. "He's a good kick returner and I hope he does well. But I don't want him to run one back on us (for a touchdown)."

George is new prez
of Champions Tour

By Randy Cadiente

KA'UPULEHU-KONA, Hawaii >> It's only fitting that with a new name comes a new leader.

Rick George, who is the tournament director at the HP Classic of New Orleans on the PGA Tour, has been appointed president of the Champions Tour.

"It was viewed to be the right time in that tour's development for it to have someone to take the role as president," PGA Tour spokesman Bob Combs said.

A former president and CEO of Fore!Kids Foundation, George will be responsible for all aspects of the Champions Tour -- from marketing to tournament operations to player relations to title sponsors.

"I couldn't be more excited about this tremendous new opportunity," George said in a tour news release. "With the changes that have been made to enhance the presentation of the tour, combined with the steady stream of great players who will enter the Champions Tour over the next several years, we have a great opportunity to take this tour to an entirely new level, and I look forward to providing leadership to that effort"

Jeff Monday, who is the senior vice president and chief of operations of the Champions Tour, has managed the restructuring of the senior circuit the last four years. With George's appointment, Monday will take on a new role within the tour's senior management team.

"Rick George is ideally qualified to help the Champions Tour take full advantage of its outstanding potential," said PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem.

Show time: The Champions Tour announced that The Golf Channel will be the exclusive cable carrier for its tournaments from 2004-2008.

This year, The Golf Channel will televise 26 events.

"In making this 5-year commitment, we have established a foundation which will allow our players to display their talents week in and week out in front of golf's most enthusiastic and dedicated audience," Finchem said.

Marsh withdraws: The winners-only field dropped to 36 after Graham Marsh withdrew earlier this week to return home to be with his ailing mother. Dan Pooley (left shoulder injury) and Raymond Floyd (family commitment) did not make the trip to the Big Island.

Hard to score: The most difficult hole yesterday was the par-3, fifth, a long 205-yarder that plays with an elevated tee. Average score there was 3.417. In contrast, the easiest hole was the 526-yard, par-5 No. 4. There were two eagles and 27 birdies on that hole for a 4.139 average.

Merry Mex is back: Lee Trevino made a record 11th appearance in the MasterCard Championship. Trevino and George Archer, who did not qualify and wasn't given a sponsor's exemption, shared the previous record at 10.

Hale to the king: Hale Irwin's team won Wednesday's Pro-Am with a 20-under-par 52. Finishing second a stroke back was Bob Gilder. In a tie for third at 54 were the teams headed by Marsh, Fuzzy Zoeller, Trevino, Jose Marie Canizares and Ed Dougherty.

Wishing thinking: The first thing golf analyst Mark Rolfing said to Champions Tour money winner Irwin at the clubhouse after yesterday's practice round was, "Happy New Year." To which Irwin replied, "I just want to come close." Besides finishing as the Tour's money winner ($3,028,304), he finished first in scoring (68.93 average per round), putting (1.717) and birdies (4.40).

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