Kalani Simpson Sidelines

Kalani Simpson

Hawaii helped launch

TWO weeks. The NFL Draft countdown is in its final stages now. Everyone is agog over workouts and 40 times. The hype is nearing its highest point.

Speculation grows by the day.

All Hawaii eyes are on Hawaii guys. Isaac Sopoaga. Travis LaBoy.

But I've got another one for you. Ben Roethlisberger.

We launched him.

He'll be a great one, the experts tell us, probably one of the top 10 picks.

But why should we care about some guy from Miami (the one in Ohio)?

Because we launched him. Hawaii is his second birthplace. He became a great player here before our very eyes.

Oh, he probably had other big games earlier in his freshman season, but nobody could blame us for thinking we saw the game. For taking a little credit. Not after that night, on Nov. 17, 2001, when he was so great we all just knew. Everybody who saw it predicted this then.

And it turned out that we were right.

It was 52-51, remember, won by Hawaii on a last-second kick. Roethlisberger was a freshman, and he was perfect.

"That quarterback can play," June Jones said that night, and everyone agreed. "That guy is for real. He's a freshman? Wow. What can I say?"

What could you?

I remember Joe Correia, the former UH defensive end, standing at the line of scrimmage between plays and just yelling. Nobody could hear him over all the noise, the craziness, but he was yelling anyway. The game was that intense. He was out there just barking at the moon.

He went after Roethlisberger all night, coming so hard, chasing, chasing, chasing. I don't think he ever got him.

"I think he's better than David Carr," Correia would say. And later that spring, you remember, David Carr, the Heisman candidate, the Sports Illustrated cover boy, would go No. 1 in the NFL Draft.

We knew we were watching something special. But the best part was we knew it at that moment. We knew it right then, as it was happening.

People on the sidelines just stood there grinning. Not after the game, after Hawaii had won. During the game. You could just feel this was something great.

You couldn't stop Roethlisberger. I don't know if Hawaii ever did. He threw for three touchdowns, and in the fourth quarter, ran for one more.

"I don't know how much times I was almost there," Correia said in the locker room later. "And when I was almost there, that's when he got rid of it."

He was never rattled. He was always right, always just a split second ahead.

And somehow, Hawaii was just as good that night, winning in the end. Nick Rolovich was just as good, but Rolo's career was at its end. Roethlisberger was just getting started.

Two years later, Miami won its conference championship, was ranked nationally in the Top 25. And with every score, every highlight, memories of that old November shootout came flooding back.

Now with every Mel Kiper ESPN forecast, with every TV mock draft, I think about that night.

It seems like forever ago.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at


E-mail to Sports Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --