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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 19, 2002

Warriors' offensive line stamped: Made in Hawai'i

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Like his fellow offensive linemen, Lahainaluna graduate Lui Fuata is of Samoan ancestry. "It's kind of a trippy thing to think about," says Fuata.

Advertiser library photo • Aug. 22, 2001

"A'a!," University of Hawai'i assistant football coach Mike Cavanaugh yelled as center Uriah Moenoa dipped his left shoulder on a block attempt during yesterday's workouts.

Moenoa shrugged, then smiled, acknowledging how Cavanaugh resembled an actor in a poorly dubbed movie.

"I shouldn't have taught him how to say 'no' in Samoan," Moenoa said. "All I get is 'no.' Everytime he calls me it's 'no.' I'm getting the bad end of it. I think I taught him the wrong word."

"Some phrases are good to know," said Cavanaugh, an Irish Catholic who was raised on the East Coast.

They might come in handy this coming season. If the depth chart in spring practice remains unchanged, for the first time since becoming a Division I football program nearly 30 years ago, UH will have a starting offensive line comprised entirely of local players. What's more, each of the tentative starters — left tackle Wayne Hunter, left guard Lui Fuata, center Moenoa, right guard Vince Manuwai and right tackle Ryan Santos — is of Samoan ancestry.

"It's kind of a trippy thing to think about," Fuata said. "It's like we have all of the usos (brothers) over here trying to represent. It's just amazing."

Said Hunter: "This is good because it gives a lot of exposure to the Samoan community. I hope a lot of young Samoan people can look at us and say, 'If they can make it, we can make it.' "

When he was hired as UH head coach in 1999, June Jones vowed to sign more Hawai'i recruits.

"It's proven there's a lot of talent in Hawai'i," Jones said. "I just think, per capita, there are more Division I players in Hawai'i than anywhere else. It's always been that way."

When the depth chart started to form, Manuwai was concerned that "some people would see it as favoritism. It's not. The best players are going to play. Right now, the starting five happen to be all local guys. We don't see us as being local guys. We see us as being guys who bust our butts in practice."

If anything, Cavanaugh equally distributes advice — and scoldings.

"I don't care where a person is from," Cavanaugh said. "If he can play, he will play. My only rule is that he has to work hard."

It is that approach that has made Cavanaugh a popular figure in the community. Of the 18 offensive linemen UH has signed in the past four years, 15 were raised in the Islands. In 2000, Moenoa turned down offers from Pac-10 schools to sign with UH.

"Whoever said I was crazy to come here doesn't know much about football," Moenoa said. "This is the place to be. I wanted to come here, to help pave the trail, because Cav is a great coach. All of the Hawai'i boys want to play for him. We're a family. Even if you're from the Mainland, you're considered to be a local guy."

Santos said the linemen introduced Cavanaugh to palusami, a Samoan dish of taro, coconut cream and onions encased in ti leaves.

"He ate about five or six," Santos recalled. "I told him to slow down. You can't eat too much of them or you tend to hit the toilet quite a bit."

Of greater usefulness, Manuwai said: "We taught him how to swear in Samoan. He swears in English, anyway. I figured if he said it in Samoan he won't get in trouble with the refs."

NOTES: Punahou defensive back Jason Ching will not walk on at UH as reported Thursday and instead has made a verbal commitment to attend Brown in the Ivy League, Punahou coach and assistant athletic director Kale Ane said yesterday. He also considered U. of San Diego.