School switch leads to success for Loo
By Dennis Anderson
Advertiser Staff Writer
"Community colleges offer a second chance for a lot of kids," says Orange Coast College football coach Mike Taylor.
Has raised his grade-point average to nearly 2.0, the score needed for him to transfer, with nearly all Bs and As the past three semesters.
So impressed voters that he was selected third-team All-America by J.C. Grid-Wire, the most widely accepted junior college football authority.
So impressed coaches at Rose Bowl-bound Washington State that they offered Loo a full scholarship, as soon as his 2.0 GPA is certified. He says he will accept.
"We're happy he came our way," coach Taylor says. "He wasn't focused, but community colleges offer a second chance to a lot of kids. He got focused while he was here."
Loo doesn't mind talking about his experience. "I already dealt with the shame," he said.
He entered UH in the spring of 2000 after taking a semester to pass his S.A.T. examination with a high enough score to be NCAA-eligible. He lettered on the University of Hawai'i football team in the 2000 season, but by the spring of 2001, "I was giving in to the temptations, and missing a lot of classes," he said.
His parents sent Keola to Costa Mesa in July 2001 and asked a family friend and former JC All-American football player, Junior Tagaloa, and his wife, Wendy, to look out for him "like a surrogate father and mother," said Keola's sister, Lahela.
"He wasn't ready for college at all when he went to UH," says Tagaloa, who has Big Island roots and is Orange Coast's wide receivers coach. "Keola has come a long way in two years."
Loo practiced with the Orange Coast football team during the 2001 season, and "showed a lot of our players what a Division I player looks like," coach Taylor said.
"He is very quick. In tests at a combine last spring, he ran 4.7 in the 40 at 295 pounds," Taylor said.
While Loo played offensive left guard for Orange Coast this season, Taylor says: "I'd love to see him on defense. He plays offense with the mentality of a defensive player."
"Moving off the island and seeing if I could be independent is probably the best thing that ever happened to me," Loo said. "If I wasn't here, I would be at home, just getting fatter." (He was 310 and growing when he left UH; now Loo is 6-2 and 290, his high-school weight).
He said that if he does all right in an honors class in political science his biggest academic challenge this fall he will finish the semester with a grade-point average between 2.8 and 3.0, and will be at Washington State for spring practice.
He said he has received "a lot of encouragement from Jason Gesser," his former teammate at St. Louis and Washington State's quarterback.