Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa worked on Travis LaBoy yesterday at UH's practice.

Tagawa’s latest
supporting role
is no act

The 52-year-old movie star
is a volunteer assistant
for Hawaii's football team

He's been a fighter pilot, a surfer, an evil sorcerer and an ape.

Now Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa is a strength and conditioning volunteer assistant for the University of Hawaii football team.

The 52-year-old movie star insists it's no act.

"I'm totally devoted to Hawaii," said Tagawa, who did similar volunteer work with the San Francisco 49ers in the 1970s and again five years ago.

"This is a way to help."

Before he made it to the big screen about 20 years ago, Tagawa worked as a masseuse and was into martial arts. He's combining his skill in both areas to help UH football players rehabilitate from injuries.

"It's my own work, different from other massage techniques. Shiatsu and sports massage are too specific," Tagawa said. "What I learned from martial arts is there's a lot of energy flow and I try to open up the energy channels."

His special project this week is senior defensive end Travis LaBoy. LaBoy, a talented but oft-injured player, suffers from a painful groin condition that resurfaces often.

LaBoy has subjected himself to Tagawa's treatments the past two days. He doesn't know if they will help, but he figures it's worth trying with time running out for Saturday's game at fourth-ranked Southern California.

"He's been real helpful, and I'm pretty much up for anything," LaBoy said.

LaBoy said he knew who Tagawa was before he met him, having seen him in "Pearl Harbor," "Mortal Kombat" and "Planet of the Apes."

"I don't really get caught up in who's who," LaBoy said. "I just know he's a good guy who's trying to help me."

The ironic part is that Tagawa is trying to get LaBoy into shape to try to beat his alma mater.

"I went to SC. But there's no love lost. My heart's in Hawaii," Tagawa said. "I didn't really root for the football team. I wasn't a 'rah-rah' guy. I was there for a degree."

Tagawa was born in Tokyo, but his father is a Farrington High School graduate. The future actor grew up in Texas, Louisiana and North Carolina.

After USC, he returned to Japan and studied martial arts under one of the top teachers in the country, Nakayama.

Tagawa finally fulfilled his acting ambition at age 36, appearing in the feature film "The Last Emperor" in 1987. He has worked steadily in the film industry since, sometimes in leading roles.

While taking a break last year, he met UH defensive end Houston Ala and strength and conditioning coach Mel deLaura at a speed and quickness clinic.

"All the stretching and stuff is good," deLaura said of Tagawa's techniques. "Some of the stuff is not football-related. But most of the stuff he does is good and applies to what we do. All the guys like him. So do all the kids at the speed camp. They're all into those video games and stuff and he's in those deals."

Warriors coach June Jones -- always open to the unconventional as long as it's effective -- said Tagawa is such a positive influence he added him to the volunteer staff this year.

"He's a good guy and the players respond to him and he knows a lot about the body and stretching and rehabilitating," Jones said. "Athletes are funny. They're not gonna let a guy mess with them unless he's helping them, and they feel like he's helping them. It's nice to have him."

Tagawa is part of UH's traveling party that leaves for Los Angeles today. He will continue to work on LaBoy with the hope of having the Warriors' best pass rusher ready for Saturday's game. If not, maybe for the Sept. 19 game at Nevada-Las Vegas.

"He's one of those guys who the injuries never stop hitting. All you can do is try to make him comfortable," Tagawa said. "I don't know about miracles. I'll do what I can."


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