Fullback/middle linebacker Keiki Misipeka is helping the Islanders fill the void left by the departure of Josh White.

Misipeka a madman
on the field

The Islanders' fullback/linebacker
turns it up a notch when playing

Meet Keiki Misipeka, a respectful young man who carries himself with a polite, easy-going demeanor away from the football field.

"He's a really calm guy. He kind of blends into the crowd," said Robert Kemfort, Misipeka's teammate with the Hawaiian Islanders.

Stay out of the way of Keiki Misipeka, now a madman in shoulder pads. He's the one with the mane flowing out the back of his helmet, relishing the impact of stuffing a ball carrier or stepping up to smack a blitzing linebacker.

"He's quiet and calm, but once he's on the field he hits that switch," Islanders receiver/defensive back Anthony Arceneaux said.

Misipeka, with his varied on- and off-field personas, has been a key addition to the Islanders early in the arenafootball2 season with his physical play and infectious enthusiasm.

"He's a wild man on the field," Kemfort said. "When the game comes you see his vocal side come out and you see him start amping. He gets us hyped up."

Misipeka and the Islanders (1-1) are looking forward to playing in front of the local fans for the first time this season when they face Bossier-Shreveport in their home opener tomorrow night at the Blaisdell Arena. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m.

Misipeka has stepped in as a fullback/linebacker in his first season with the Islanders, sharing time with veteran Vai Notoa, and has emerged as an inspirational leader.

"He has that passion for the game that's contagious for the rest of the players," Islanders coach Cal Lee said. "He goes out there and plays with a lot of enthusiasm and all the other players get excited and you need that kind of stuff."

The fullback's primary duty in an arena football offense is to serve as the personal protector for the quarterback while waiting for the rare opportunity to carry the ball. But he's also enjoying life playing in the middle of the Islanders' defensive scheme this season.

"I really wanted to try defense, but I really didn't have a chance (in college)," Misipeka said. "Just to be on the other side of the ball, I'm a little bit more excited, kind of amped up about everything."

Misipeka, who grew up in American Samoa, played one season at the University of Hawaii, where he gained 11 yards on just two carries with the Warriors in 2001. He transferred to Southeast Missouri State, an NCAA Division I-AA school, for the 2002 season and ran for 756 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior.

He earned a roster spot with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League, but was released just before the playoffs and missed out on the Eskimos' 2003 Grey Cup run.

Misipeka also hit a low point away from the field as his family had moved from Samoa so his father, Kelemete, could receive medical treatment in Honolulu. Misipeka returned to Hawaii last December, a day after his father died.

"It was really hard for me because he didn't really have a chance to see me play in college," said Misipeka, himself a father of three.

"Every time I step on the field I think about my father. I know for sure he's watching me from above, and all the drive I have is all because of him."

Misipeka's cousin, Trevor, plays for af2's San Diego Riptide and got Keiki in contact with Islanders assistant coach Frank Pahia. He showed up at the Islanders' open tryout and eventually found his way onto the 19-man active roster for the Islanders' first two games of the season.

His addition has helped ease the loss of Josh "Zeus" White, who earned a promotion to the Arena Football League's New York Dragons.

"Any time you lose a person of Zeus's caliber those are big shoes to fill. Keiki is filling those shoes pretty fast," Lee said. "Every game he's getting better and better."

Misipeka is hoping to use his af2 experience to follow former Islanders Zeus White and Isaac White, now with the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs, into football's higher levels. In order to absorb the punishment required of a blocking back and middle linebacker, Misipeka packed close to 30 extra pounds onto his 6-foot-1 frame and is now playing at 260.

As for his transformation when he steps between the boards, Misipeka just sees it as part of his role on the squad.

"When you're on the field you have to get psyched up and get your players inspired and motivate them," Misipeka said.


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