A little inspiration motivates Kanoa
By Ferd Lewis
To glimpse Manly Kanoa III cradling his two-month old daughter in a massive forearm is to understand part of why he has been known as the "gentle giant" of the University of Hawai'i football team.
The vision of this 6-foot-5, 314-pound offensive guard gingerly pushing Emma's tiny stroller on campus underlines the tender nature of the teammate quarterback Tim Chang has taken to calling, "Pops."
Through three years and 25 consecutive offensive line starts in a Warrior uniform, Kanoa has largely shown the same soft-spoken and even-tempered side to the football world as he has to everyone else.
Now, as his senior season kicks off, the other, much hoped for but rarely-seen side is beginning to emerge in his football. A ferocity and passion about the sport that have long been dormant have been stirred.
Coaches have marveled about his Incredible Hulk-like transformation in the weight room. Teammates applaud his dedication to workouts and everybody is looking for the breakout on the field this season beginning with Saturday's opener against Montana on Maui.
There is a sense that the light has finally gone on for Kanoa; that he now sees in himself that vast potential that offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh long ago gleamed. That the Warriors' most experienced offensive lineman is ready to lower a shoulder on the season ahead and turn potential into punishing reality.
For his own part, Kanoa says simply, "There's a point where you can just play football and be satisfied and there's also a point where you can go out and dominate and that's where I want to go now."
It is an awakening that began after last season, a campaign where the progress of his promising sophomore year was not matched as a junior. Where, when Kanoa finished the season, he said he walked away without self-fulfillment.
"I knew I didn't play up to standard," Kanoa said. "I wasn't helping this team out the way I was capable of."
So he rededicated himself in the spring, putting in the long, arduous hours in the weight room that he had previously bypassed, and becoming a driving force in players-only summer workouts.
In Cavanaugh's world, where PTA stands for "pain, torture and agony," Kanoa has been a glutton for punishment. And, among the dividends have been a rise in his bench press from five repetitions at 275 pounds to 395, increased speed, endurance and flexibility.
Inspiration came, as much as anything, in an eight-pound package. "When she was born, it all hit me right there in the hospital," Kanoa said. "It was like: 'Oh, man, I'm going to have to give her a future and provide for her.' She wasn't a niece or a nephew anymore, this was my child."
As the only senior starter on the offensive line and heir to a growing legacy that has seen three Warriors from the unit win jobs in the NFL in two years, the soon-to-be business graduate knows where his future is.
"If I want to provide for my family, I have to look to that next level," Kanoa said. "The way to get there is through performing on Saturdays and showing it on the game film.
"Now, when I'm looking at the guy across from me on the line, I'm thinking about my family's future. I'm thinking, 'He's trying to take money away from my daughter's future' and I'm not going to let that happen."
For his senior year, Kanoa remains a giant, but it would be a mistake to assume the gentleness extends to the field.