Rites of passage

After all these years, Hawaii's most
famous football player is still a mystery

» In his own words
» Chang's passing milestones

How well does Hawaii know Tim Chang?

We're not talking about his family, friends, teammates and coaches, but Hawaii, the state in general. The fan who buys season tickets, or pay per view, or goes to one game a year.

Chang has been one of the biggest sports figures here since even before he became the Hawaii quarterback in 2000, way before his name was prefaced by the words Heisman Trophy candidate. When he truly was "Timmy" to just about everyone, and not yet "Tim," which he admits to preferring when pushed.

Now and then the public gets glimpses of his accommodating, happy-go-lucky personality, the way he loves to interact with children and fans in general, or the charming, joking persona that comes across in TV interviews.

As he closes in on the all-time career college passing record, he will be a more visible figure nationally than even Michelle Wie.

But how well does the state really know the young man?

The surprising answer is, "Not as well as you might think."

Especially in Hawaii, we like to think we know our sports heroes, because often they look like us, or talk like us, and we're different than the rest of the nation. But most people, even local people, don't know Chang. They watch him.

They watch Chang while he operates enclosed in a plastic shell, surrounded by huge bodyguards, entertaining crowds of thousands on Saturday nights. Then they watch him smile and talk about these deeds all week in 30-second sound bites.


Taken from Chang's perspective, more than 100 other Division I starting quarterbacks share a similar experience, but that doesn't make it any less of a bizarre existence for a college student. And even most of them are not the water-cooler and lunch-pail talk of an entire state each fall.

Questions about his personal life receive polite rebuffs.

"I don't mind talking about anything having to do with football," he said. "But there are some things I prefer to keep to myself."

That doesn't make him unique. The thing that really makes him a little different than the others (besides his Chinese surname), is that he is a walking, talking contradiction -- not in a bad way, but in an interesting way -- and always has been since he walked onto the Manoa campus four years and 12,814 yards ago.

His physical courage has been questioned so many times, it's become a cliche. (And that's partly his own fault when he names a brace designed for the small finger on his throwing hand his "pinkie pillow.") But he has led his team to several comeback wins, including once with a badly sprained knee.

His mental toughness has also come under fire; he was booed and benched, ironically, during Hawaii's biggest win of the season last year, against Alabama. The normally gregarious Chang retreated to his inner circle of family and close friends. Then he came back, off the bench, to lead the Warriors to a Hawaii Bowl victory, and he became the state's favorite son once again.

Shaking the horrific slump also showed something to his teammates and coach June Jones, but it is something they say they already knew -- that Chang is a leader.

"I fall into that category of lead by example," he said. "I do get vocal on Saturdays. And I think a lot of people don't see how focused I get, like with tape and studying, as the game approaches."

Chang has proven he is resilient. He goes into his final season optimistic yet knowing, saying the right "team-first" things when asked about the record and the individual honors.

"He handles (the attention) really well," teammate Chad Owens said. "We don't even talk about the record. It's just something that will happen. I don't think anyone else could handle this situation like Timmy Chang."


In his own words

A few choice words from Tim Chang on a variety of topics:

On life without football

"I'd probably be a coach in some sport. I grew up playing baseball and basketball. At Saint Louis I concentrated on playing football because that was my best chance at a scholarship."

On pressure

"There's always pressure. For us, we've had a very good team for a couple of years. We win, and people expect us to continue to win. The way we deal with it is not thinking about it. We concentrate on simple things we have control over."

On family

"My parents used sports as a tool for me, to occupy my time, to teach me to become sociable and interact with other kids."

On style

"Everyone on the team is unique, we all have our trademarks, our habits. Of course you can't let individual things be above the team, but usually style is fun."


Tracking Chang’s career
passing milestones in yards


Oct. 21, 2000
38-13 loss at Rice


Nov. 18, 2000
27-10 win vs. La. Tech


Dec. 2, 2000
34-32 loss vs. UNLV


Sept. 29, 2001
27-24 loss vs. Rice


Sept. 29, 2002
42-10 win vs. SMU


Oct. 19, 2002
37-14 win vs. Tulsa


Nov. 16, 2002
33-28 win at Rice


Nov. 30, 2002
21-16 loss vs. Alabama


Sept. 19, 2003
33-22 loss at UNLV


Oct. 11, 2003
55-28 win vs. Fresno St.


Oct. 25, 2003
31-15 win vs. UTEP


Nov. 22, 2003
59-28 win vs. Army


Dec. 25, 2003
54-48 win vs. Houston in Hawaii Bowl

15,031: Ty Detmer

Brigham Young 1988-1991 1,530 958 .626 65 121



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