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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, June 11, 2006

He has caught on quickly to offense

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Davone Bess led Hawai'i in receptions, touchdowns and points last season, earning Freshman All-America honors.

DEBORAH BOOKER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Davone Bess says he "didn't know the overall concept" of the Hawai'i offense last year, but now that he does, "it's kind of a natural buzz."

DEBORAH BOOKER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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While his University of Hawai'i football teammates were feeling hot-hot-hot, slotback Davone Bess remained oblivious to the SPF-50 conditions at the school's grass practice field.

Wearing a long-sleeved black shirt and thick gloves, Bess ran pass route after pass route under an unforgiving sun.

Earlier, he lifted weights for an hour and ran sprints before showering and then attending a political science class.

The thing is, the Warriors' summer conditioning program does not start until tomorrow.

"Why wait?" Bess said. "When it comes to working hard, there's no such thing as an offseason."

Bess has set a goal of improving on his performance of last year, when he was named a Freshman All-American after leading the Warriors in receptions (89), touchdowns (14) and points (84).

In the process, Bess said, "I showed that coach (June) Jones made the right decision in giving me a second chance."

In July 2003, two weeks before he was to report to Oregon State's football training camp, Bess was sentenced to 15 months in a juvenile detention ranch after being convicted as an accessory for possessing stolen goods. He was released in September 2004, and enrolled at UH in January 2005.

Now Bess is doing well in school, and is one of the team leaders in community service. He is an honorary member of the Manoa Paniolos Pop Warner football team. "I wear their shirt almost every practice," he said.

This year, he was the featured speaker at two juvenile detention centers.

"I spoke to them about my situation and what I went through," he said. "I thought it was good for them to hear what I had to go through and where I am now. I felt like we made a connection with some of them. A couple of girls actually broke down and started crying. It was really intense. They really felt the message."

Bess, a native of Oakland, Calif., took some time to answer questions from The Advertiser:

On his hairstyle:

"This is the style we do back home. Where I'm from, a lot of dudes grow their dreads down and bleach the tips. I'm just keeping it real. It takes a good hour, hour and a half, to do it. You have to twist it and then bleach the ends.

"I tried to get (quarterback) Colt (Brennan) to dress in dreads. He was excited about it, up for it then. But when it came down to it, he couldn't. At least I put the thought in his head."

On adding about five pounds:

"I gained a little healthy weight, some muscle. I've been lifting weights, working out, doing the right things, doing (assistant strength) coach Mel (deLaura's) workouts. ... I like to lift. I didn't start lifting weights until the 10th grade. That was my first year of ever playing football. I wasn't really serious about lifting (back then). I did it because I had to. Once I became a junior, I started to like it. Then I went from there. I started to see the difference in my body. It motivated me to lift more."

On his late introduction to football:

"I was always playing baseball and basketball growing up. My mom was a single parent. She didn't have the time to put into football. Football takes a lot more time than baseball and basketball."

On being raised by a single mother:

"It forced me to mature early. I had to take care of my younger brother when my mother wasn't able to. It kind of made me man up at an early age. It made me into a stronger person."

On his father:

"I don't really know my dad. The last time I saw him was my senior year, right before I graduated from high school. He showed up out of the blue. We met up. We chilled for a minute. And that was it. I haven't seen him since. ... He'll call my family, some relatives every now and then, and ask about me, how I'm doing. ... At this point in time in my life, I feel I've already established myself as being a man. There's nothing he can teach me now. As far as having a relationship (with him), I'm not neglecting him, you know."

On his mother:

"My mom, man, she's my inspiration for being out here. Hopefully, I'm fortunate to make it to the next level. All of this is because of her, and how strong and grounded she is. A lot of my good habits are because of her.

"She had me at a young age. She had me and my brother before the age of 17. Watching her go through the struggles, trying to support me and my younger brother ... and we weren't the best kids. It was her dedication, and how much she cared about us to go through what she did. I want to show my appreciation to her and my family. My whole family. My grandma, aunt, everybody. Everybody who was there with me.

"She's inspiring me to get my degree. I'm one of the first people in my family to make it to college. I came this far. I might as well set the bar even higher by getting that paper."

On his family encouraging him to live in Hawai'i:

"They're happy I'm out here, because there's so much stuff happening back home. You can be walking in the middle of the road, and anything can happen. You're risking getting into trouble. That's the way it is out there. They're happy for me being out here."

On the reception he expected initially from UH fans:

"Coming out here, I expected a little criticism. I expected people to think, 'Oh, I hope you're not coming out here expecting to start trouble.' I knew people like that. At the end of the day, I know I'll be standing tall, my head up high."

On forming fast friendships with teammates from the Mainland:

"We're all that we have for each other. Even if we didn't like each other, we were forced to develop a relationship with each other because we didn't have anybody else. All of us coming from the same situation, being far away from our families, I think that forced us to develop friendships really quick."

On playing most of last year despite injuries to his groin and lower back:

"It started with my right groin. My junior year of high school, I was running a route, and I slipped. I kind of hit the splits, but this (right) leg was (twisted outwardly). I kind of tweaked it. At the time I thought it wasn't serious. I wasn't financially supported enough to get it rehabbed and checked. I figured as time goes by, it would go away.

"Out here, running so many routes, it kept bothering me. I rehabbed on it for three days a week.

"My (lower back) is all right. (The pain) went away probably two weeks after the San Diego game.

"When you're out there, and the adrenaline is rushing, you're not thinking about the pain. But trust me, after the game, that's when I'm adding up all of my pain. I had trouble getting out of bed.

"Now, I'm doing exercises to prevent injuries. They're really intense workouts."

On learning the offense:

"I knew what I had to do, but I didn't know the overall concept. Now I know that. Coach (June Jones) told us at the beginning of last year's fall camp, 'You'll get better the more you go through this.' When I watch film (of last year's games) now, I'm like, 'Why did I do that?' If only I knew then what I know now.

"I think it clicked in the middle of spring ball (in April). That's when everything clicked. It was like, 'OK, now I understand everything.' Last year, I knew my routes. If coach told me to run this play, I knew what to do. But I didn't know what (wideout) Ian Sample was doing. I didn't know what (wideout) Ross (Dickerson) was doing. I didn't know why Colt was looking off that safety. I didn't know the overall concept. Now I know why. Now that I know it, it's kind of a natural buzz, a boost, to think about it. I'm fired up, because I know what I'm doing now."

On his workouts:

"I like to trash talk to people (whom) I know work hard, to see how they take it. I try to out-work them. That motivates me. (Cornerback) C.J. Hawthorne works hard. He's a workhorse. (Slotback Jason Ferguson) is the same. When I'm doing lifts, he's always pushing me. He's always telling me, 'No, you're not done. You've got to do another set.' He's constantly in my ear."

On running back Nate Ilaoa, who recently was awarded an exemption allowing him to play as a sixth-year senior in the fall:

"Nate is going to be the guy. Even though everybody talks about Colt and the receivers, it's going to come down to Nasty. He's the one who makes the big fourth-and-1 plays. He's the one who can take a screen and turn it into a touchdown. To be honest, I've never seen a guy like Nate. I've never seen a guy move like that. That elusiveness, man, he's hard to bring down. It would be scary to be a defender. You don't know whether (Ilaoa) is going to run you over or shake you. You're like, 'Man, what do I do?' "

On talk of being used as a third-down cornerback:

"Whatever happens, happens. If we need me to step up and do that, I'll be more than happy to do that. But just moving over for the sake of moving over, nah, I'm not interested in that. I'm still hungry as a receiver. I haven't eaten yet."

On thinking ahead to the Sept. 2 opener at Alabama:

"I was telling Colt the other day: 'I'm dreaming in crimson.' I'm thinking about Alabama all of the time. I visualize plays in my head. I see myself looking around that stadium, seeing 93,000 fans screaming and yelling. I'm not afraid at all. In fact, I'm too confident, which is good. I'm going to go in there prepared. We all are. There's no such thing as luck. It's what happens when preparation meets opportunity. On Sept. 2, that's when our preparation is going to meet that opportunity. I'm telling you, we're excited."

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.