UH linebacker and kicker WAC players of the week
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
University of Hawai'i linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa and place-kicker Justin Ayat today were named the Western Athletic Conference's defensive and special teams players of the week, respectively. But they also could have shared in a football award for the best comebacks.
Tinoisamoa, who amassed 14 tackles and forced a fumble in a 36-15 victory over Tulsa Saturday, struggled to retain his academic eligibility this past summer.
Ayat, who kicked a 55-yard field goal Saturday, rebounded from two weeks ago against Southern Methodist, when he missed four attempts, including the potential winning kick in the final seconds of regulation.
As a freshman in 1999, Tinoisamoa was academically ineligible because the NCAA Clearinghouse ruled that one of his high school math classes was not a college prep subject. (Since then, the interpretation has changed, and today that class would count as a core subject.)
He was overweight and struggled last season, then lost his starting job in spring practice. He also needed to pass two summer school classes to remain eligible.
"It was a lack of commitment," Tinoisamoa said. "I came here to play football, and I told myself that's pretty much the only thing I wanted to do. I was narrow-minded in everything I did. In order to play this game, I realized I had to do well in the classroom, as well."
Tinoisamoa now has a "B" average, and he has become the featured tackler in the Warriors' basic 4-3 defensive scheme.
If he earns a bachelor's degree by August 2003, he will regain the season he lost and will be eligible to play as a fifth-year senior in 2003.
"I'm on track," he said. "I made a commitment to myself."
Ayat, a redshirt freshman from the Kamehameha Schools, also vowed to improve. After the SMU game, "people who didn't know me were doubtful about what I could do," he said.
But UH coach June Jones remained supportive. During breakfast on Friday, Jones told reporters that he would give Ayat the opportunity to kick from more than 50 yards. Ayat's 55-yard field goal, the second-longest in the program's history, thundered into the stands beyond the crossbar.
"I'm happy and thankful that he kept his trust and faith in me," Ayat said of Jones. "Coming off that SMU game, after kicking like that, I thought he would lose some confidence in me. I'm glad he let me have the opportunity."