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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, December 21, 2002

Ala praised for aggressive style

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Even before he was born, University of Hawai'i football player Houston Ala was unique.

His parents, Audrey and Tui, were watching a football telecast involving the Houston Oilers in 1982 when they realized they no longer needed to search the "Baby Name Book."

"They liked the name," said Ala, a junior defensive lineman, adding, "I'm happy I was able to travel to Houston (this season)."

During games, Ala is a ragin' bull.

"Every time you hear someone hollering and screaming, it's Houston Ala," said Vantz Singletary, who coaches UH's defensive linemen. "He's just a relentless player."

Still, despite his lone-star name and snorting playing style, Ala blends into the line. Even when it came to being underrated, Ala has been overlooked, with that label being placed on defensive tackle Lance Samuseva.

"He doesn't get the credit," defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa said, "but he makes plays. He's tied for the team lead in sacks (with six). He's our most versatile lineman."

Ala starts at right end, but moves to defensive tackle or nose guard in passing situations. At 6 feet 1 and an optimistically listed 245 pounds, Ala usually is at a disadvantage in height and weight against an offensive lineman.

"I don't care if he's facing someone 6-9," Singletary said. "He'll still beat the guy."

"If you want to know what makes him special," Lempa said, "watch his feet. They never stop moving. Against Alabama, they never stopped the whole time. He's got great quickness."

Ala, who can bench press 400 pounds, has a body crafted by HMSA. He has played with shoulder injuries, and this year, he suffered a severely sprained Achilles' heel. But despite playing with a Herman Munster-like protective boot, "he keeps moving," Lempa said. "He hates to lose. He'll play hard from the first snap to the last, in fact, he'll get better as the game goes on."

Ala said he accepts the challenge of enduring injuries. "It's tough to play through injuries, but every player has injuries," he said. "Every player has tough times. It's all up to you, and how you want to play."

He also can make the transition from soft-spoken player to, according to Singletary, "our samurai Warrior."

"I heard a speech where a guy said, 'You have to come into the zone,' " Ala said. "That's what I try to do. On the field, you can be a different person. You have to play at a different level, a different tempo. You owe it to yourself how you want to play the game. I want to play it to my best."

Singletary said Ala often will watch videotapes of All-Pro defensive end John Randle.

"He loves John Randle," Singletary said. "He watches all of his moves, how he explodes toward the quarterback. That's really been a benefit to him."

Ala's father is a former UH running back. But what Ala learned the most from his father was "how to be supportive."

Audrey and Tui Ala attended all of their sons' sporting events, sometimes splitting up if two sons played on the same night.

"No matter what, there always would be at least one parent there," Ala said. "That really makes an impact on a kid. You think you can do anything if you have your parents' love and support."