Kalani Simpson Sidelines

Kalani Simpson

At UH, spring practice
is just a day in the park

WELCOME to the most laid-back spring practice in America.

The fences are high, but the gate is wide open.

Everyone is welcome. A man brings his dog. Fans stroll across the field.

Could you think of a team, any team, a Pee Wee team, where visitors are allowed to cut across the field in the middle of practice?

But no, when they say the University of Hawaii spring practices are open, it means they are OPEN.

Who was that on the sideline last week? Why, only the head coach of Hawaii's fiercest conference rival. An invited guest.

(Fresno State's Pat Hill took the bait, then upped the ante by intimating that his son might play at UH. Only the latest in the continuing saga of the WAC's glimmer twins.)

Now that's open.

There is little yelling, at this spring practice. There are no whistles. Plays just sort of eventually peter out.

No real contact. Little hitting.

A different pace.

Everyone is in shorts, except the head coach, who, living a George Costanza fantasy, reports to work in sweatpants.

The atmosphere is relaxed.

"It's more easier," said All-WAC safety Hyrum Peters, in comparing it to high school practices at Kahuku. "It's more cruise. More mentally preparing yourself to play in the game."

Guys are coming off the street to join up.

Who wouldn't?

Already, two promising basketball prospects have cast their lot with the UH football squad, maybe for good. Most every athlete on campus has made noises, now has dreams, about becoming a football star.

And you can't even really blame them for thinking they could make the jump.

This isn't your average football boot camp.

This is something very different indeed.

No offensive coordinator. No defensive coordinator.

No need.

"I think we've eliminated a lot of mental errors on defense," the coach, June Jones, said yesterday, after the final practice of the spring.

No spring game.

Now that's relaxed.

Instead, UH had just another practice, only the second of the spring where any tackling was allowed, only the second where the Hawaii players actually wore football pants. And Jones wasn't sure even that much hitting was needed.

"I really kind of just did it because I know the players were anxious to do it," he said.

No spring game!

Everyone has a spring game.

All over the country they're having spring games, March and April revivals to rev up the alumni and rally the troops and give the players just a little taste of Saturday night, live.

But not Hawaii, where the quarterback only watches. Where the best defensive player sits out all spring with an injury, and hasn't practiced since ... well, nobody can quite remember.

And the biggest, baddest player on the field, defensive lineman Isaac Sopoaga, peppers his speech with words like "heart" and "love."

"Everybody showed their heart," he said after yesterday's short, final scrimmage. "They showed what Mr. Jones wanted us to do, to come out and show our hearts on the field."

"I love it," he said of football, of practice, of spring. "I really enjoy it."

It was like talking to Barry White.

It was peaceful, soothing.

All of it is.


"I'm gonna miss it," Peters said.

"I wish spring ball went a little bit longer," Sopoaga said. "I'll be bored without it."

Kalani Simpson can be reached at


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