Kauai star
to make history

Freshman Jordon Dizon of Waimea tabbed
to start at inside linebacker for Colorado

Dizon is a big hit

An unassuming 18-year-old from Kauai is poised to make University of Colorado football history Saturday night.

Jordon Dizon will be the sixth true freshman, and first inside linebacker, in 115 years of Colorado football to start in a season-opening game.

"It's a great honor for me," Dizon said.

Though Dizon (pronounced DAI-zon) was rated as one of the hottest prospects in the nation, and was offered a scholarship by Colorado in the summer before his senior year at Waimea High, starting as a freshman in his first college game was not in his dreams.

"Oh no, never," he told Hawaii Grown. "I expected to just come here and just be a person who was on the team."

But Colorado coaches saw potential greatness in the 6-1, 215-pounder, whom they signed as an "athlete" even though he missed almost his entire senior season with a torn ankle ligament.

Rivals.com had ranked Dizon as the No. 8 running-back prospect in the nation. Colorado coaches thought he might be a fullback, but decided to start him in fall camp at safety.

After a few days, they moved him to inside linebacker, which Dizon had not played since his freshman year at Waimea High.

"His first play at linebacker made everybody's head turn -- the coaches and the other players -- everybody," said Brian Cabral, Colorado's assistant head coach. "He was so instinctive and so fast and quick and he put on a big lick on the ball carrier.

"He is always in on big plays, knocking receivers down, knocking running backs down, knocking balls down. He's everywhere."

Cabral, a 1974 Saint Louis School graduate originally from Kailua, played linebacker for Colorado and for nine years in the NFL, including the Chicago Bears' 1985 Super Bowl champions.

He has coached linebackers at Colorado since 1990 and has seen seven of them drafted by the NFL.

And Cabral says: "I have never seen a freshman linebacker come in like Jordon."

"He is fun to watch," Cabral added. "He is so instinctive and he only knows one speed -- full speed.

"He can make a mistake and still get on the ball."

Although inexperienced at the position, Dizon is "very mature for a freshman," Cabral says. "He's very smart and picks things up well.

"There is not a whole lot of coaching I have to do."

Dizon recognizes his inexperience as a linebacker.

"I've got no technique at all. I just run to the ball," he said.

"I like doing new stuff. Right now, I'm just trying to learn everything and fit in," Dizon added.

Cabral points out that Dizon "has yet to be battle tested."

That will come Saturday night, when Colorado opens its season at home against Colorado State, one of the best teams in the Mountain West Conference.

The game will be televised nationally on Fox Sports (Oceanic Cable channels 20 and 226 at 2 p.m. Saturday in Hawaii).

"I expect him to make mistakes but also expect him to make a lot of plays," says Cabral.

Darla Abatiello stood by her son, Jordon Dizon, at Waimea High School's homecoming football game.

Dizon a big hit for
Buffaloes, school and family

It probably was serendipity that led Jordon Dizon to the University of Colorado football team.

Colorado assistant head coach Brian Cabral, who grew up in Kailua on Oahu, had visited the Waimea High School campus on Kauai in the spring of 2001 to evaluate a big offensive lineman.

Waimea coach Jon Kobayashi recommended that Cabral also "keep an eye on" a freshman -- Jordon Dizon.

"We sent him some camp brochures and he came to our summer camp after his sophomore year as a linebacker," Cabral says. "He was impressive."

Dizon was impressed with Colorado, too.

"I fell in love with it," he told Hawaii Grown.

Dizon returned to the summer camp after his junior year, this time as a running back.

"He was impressive again," Cabral said. "We offered him a scholarship after camp and he took it right away."

"Colorado won me over early," Dizon told reporter B.G. Brooks of the Rocky Mountain News. "Why go looking for something else when you've found something great? I had no desire to go anywhere else."

His mother, Darla Abatiello, read online that Dizon was going to start Saturday night.

"When he calls he never talks about football," she said.

"He is so humble, he doesn't say much. It's a miracle for a boy coming from such a small school. We thought he would be redshirted; we never dreamed this would be happening."

Abatiello said that she and Jordon "want to thank the people of Kauai. Without all their support, Jordon could never be the way he is."

Cabral says Dizon is the first neighbor-island player he has recruited and the first player from Hawaii he has coached at linebacker, which Cabral played at Colorado and for nine years in the NFL.

"It means a lot to me," Cabral said.

"I went through all the things the kids from Hawaii go through when they come here. This is pretty special for me."

Junior nose guard Vaka Manupuna (Saint Louis '01 of Kihei, Maui) has served as Dizon's "big brother" on the team.

"He's a real humble kid," Manupuna told Brooks. "He's doing something that not all kids from Hawaii get to do -- get a free ride to a good school to play football. He's like me -- very thankful."

Manupuna told Brooks that Dizon's admitted lack of technique at linebacker is no problem.

"He just goes for it, goes wherever the ball goes. Technique will come; what he has is special," Manupuna said.

Manupuna received the coaches' Most Improved Defensive Player award and also will start on Saturday.

For TV watchers, he is No. 93 and Dizon is No. 44.

There are two other true freshmen from Hawaii on the Colorado roster:

David Veikune, a Campbell grad from Wahiawa, is a scholarship player, currently No. 3 at defensive end, and R.J. Brown of Punahou is a walk-on linebacker.

The last true freshman to start his first game for Colorado was an offensive lineman 12 years ago, according to David Plati, assistant athletic director, who is possessed of a fathomless amount of Colorado football knowledge.

"Dizon is as quick to the ball as any linebacker I have seen here," Plati says.

"He gets to the ball and doesn't get impeded on the way, he just slides and sneaks through and all of sudden he is there. He finds holes."

Cabral adds, "I don't know how he does it, but he does it."

The Colorado record for the most tackles in a season opener, Plati reports, is 25, set in 1977 against Stanford by linebacker Brian Cabral.



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