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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, August 20, 2004

Warriors' Purcell out with injured left foot

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Starting defensive end Melila Purcell III did not participate in yesterday's practice because of pain on the top side of his left foot.

Purcell, who was on crutches, said he suffered the injury during Wednesday's morning practice.

"He just planted it wrong," UH coach June Jones said. "Sometimes you step wrong."

Purcell said: "I couldn't even stand up" yesterday morning.

Jones said Purcell used crutches as a precaution. "We don't want to put pressure on (the left foot) and inflame it more," Jones said.

It does not appear that he suffered a fracture.

Purcell vowed to be available for the Sept. 4 season opener against Florida Atlantic. "It would be hard to stay out of it," said Purcell, a junior from American Samoa.

Jones called the 6-foot-5, 258-pound Purcell the Warriors' "best defensive lineman." Last season, he amassed 3.5 sacks.

Purcell is the third defensive starter injured in training camp. Left tackle Lui Fuga and weakside linebacker Paul Lutu-Carroll both suffered partial tears to the medial collateral ligaments in their right knees. Fuga and Lutu-Carroll are not expected to resume practicing for at least another week.

What's more, backup defensive end Ikaika Alama-Francis is recovering from surgery to repair a herniated disk. He won't resume practicing until Sept. 13, the Monday before the Warriors' second game.

Jones said Kila Kamakawiwo'ole, a cousin of the late singer Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, will replace Purcell at left end.

"Kila has improved," Jones said of the 2001 Kaimuki High graduate. "He's really worked hard this summer and gotten better. He's had his chance to really make a statement. He's stronger, faster. He'll get a chance to play."

Vantz Singletary, who coaches the defensive linemen, said the 6-foot-2, 240-pound Kamakawiwo'ole is a qualified replacement should Purcell miss an extended period.

"We don't know how long Mel will be gone," Singletary said. "If he's not ready to go on opening week, then Kila will be the guy. I believe in Kila. I don't think we lose a lot with Kila in there. He'll be fine, and we'll be A-OK."

At Kaimuki, Kamakawiwo'ole was used as a receiver, linebacker and safety. He practiced as a linebacker during his first two years at UH before moving to defensive end last season.

Kamakawiwo'ole has managed to balance football, school and family life. He and his girlfriend, Iwilani, have twin sons who turn 4 in October.

"We live in Kailua, and I have to go back and forth, back and forth," he said. "I like to work out, but it's important to me to spend time with my family. I'm learning time management."

Starting right cornerback Kenny Patton, receiver Britton Komine, left wideout Ian Sample and placekicker Justin Ayat did not practice because of leg strains.

In other team news, quarterback Tim Chang is one of 40 "players to watch" for the Walter Camp Football Foundation's National Player of the Year Award.

The award is voted on by the 117 Division I-A head coaches and sports information directors. This year's recipient will be announced on the ESPN/Home Depot College Football Awards Show in December.

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8051.