In their fathers' footsteps
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
After several three-hour football workouts under an unforgiving sun, time begins to play tricks.
Mike Akiu Jr.: Hopefully I can do well here.
Mike Akiu Sr.: Among the fastest in a UH uniform.
There is a "Laboy" listed as a defensive lineman, with a build eerily similar to a defensive lineman who played for UH nearly 30 years ago.
And can it be? a wide receiver named Mike Akiu once again sprints to the open field at the speed of blur.
Is history repeating itself? Is this now or then?
"I guess," UH coach June Jones said, "it means I'm getting older, although I try not to think of it that way."
This is no illusion. Tui Ala and defensive end Houston Ala are the sons of Tui Ala; Travis Laboy's father is Cliff Laboy, and Mike Akiu Jr.'s father is regarded as one of the fastest players to wear a UH uniform.
All are closely tied to Jones. The elder Tui Ala (his son has a different middle name) and Cliff Laboy were Jones' teammates at UH. Jones was the quarterback coach when Mike Akiu Sr. played for the Houston Oilers in 1987.
As one of four family members with the same name, Jones understands legacies.
"I'm just glad their sons are here," Jones said.
Travis Laboy transferred from Utah State.
Cliff Laboy was a top UH defender 30 years ago.
"When Coach Jones was in the NFL, I remember my father telling me, 'I was that guy's teammate in college,' " Tui Ala recalled.
Tui Ala said that "right away, people recognize my name. They always ask me, 'Didn't your father play for UH?' I like it when people remember my father."
Said Houston Ala: "My father sometimes talks about the old days. He's always giving me advice, like, 'Play hard and don't give up.' "
Travis Laboy said he often works out with his father, who is 50.
"He's really strong for his age," Travis Laboy said. "He offers me tips on football and conditioning."
But expectations and comparisons are inherent parts of being a second-generation Warrior. Akiu Jr., a walk-on from Kamehameha Schools, is often asked if he is as fast as his father, who once ran 40 yards in under 4.3 seconds.
"I don't know if I'll ever be as good as he was," Akiu Jr. said. "But, hopefully, I can do well here. It's a good experience. And I'm happy. I really wanted to come here."
Travis Laboy has heard about his father's fierce play.
"I knew there would be expectations because my dad supposedly was the man out here," said Travis Laboy, who was raised in California and attended Utah State before transferring to UH last year. "It doesn't bother me at all. It was my dream to come here and play."
Huston Ala says people always recognize his name.
Tui Ala Jr. says his father always gives him advice.
High praise: UH president Evan Dobelle withstood the Manoa rain to deliver a rousing speech to the Warriors at the end of yesterday's three-hour practice.
"It's humbling, in a way," Dobelle said of the meeting.
During the three-minute address, "I told them I wasn't a fan of theirs as much as I was an admirer," Dobelle said. "They're young men who are managing time and responsibility. ... I told them I was proud of them, and thanked them for what they were doing for themselves, their teammates and, in my opinion, the university and state of Hawai'i."
Quarterback Tim Chang said the players appreciated the message.
"Anytime you have one of the guys above you giving you praise and thanking you for what you do out here, it's very gratifying," he said.
As the top administrator at City College of San Francisco and then Trinity College, Dobelle sat alongside boosters or students during sporting events. He is expected to sit in the student section during several UH events this year.
Medical report: Freshman offensive lineman Brandon Eaton suffered a fractured right elbow and might undergo surgery.
The 6-foot-4, 275-pound Eaton was injured during yesterday's afternoon practice.