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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 24, 2006

McKnight applies for job with Warriors

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

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University of Hawai'i football coach June Jones yesterday said there are no imminent plans for Dennis McKnight to rejoin the Warrior coaching staff.

The buzz on the campus was McKnight, who was not retained as a San Diego State assistant, would join the Warriors in some capacity this spring practice.

The Warriors are looking to improve their special teams, an area McKnight coached here in 1999 and 2000. The Warriors have not officially filled the position vacated when Vantz Singletary resigned as defensive line coach three weeks ago, opening the way for a guest coach or instructor to attend spring practice. Mouse Davis, Jones' mentor and coach of the running backs, has said he is here on a season-to-season basis and as a favor to Jones.

McKnight arrived in Honolulu Wednesday night, and attended yesterday's practice as an "observer."

McKnight said he would like to rejoin the Warriors if there's "a vacancy, if there's something there. I have to wait and see."

But asked if McKnight has a chance to join UH in the near future, Jones said, "No."

Asked if there would be a shakeup in duties to open the way for McKnight, Jones said, "Nope. We've got one spot open."

It is widely believed graduate assistant Jeff Reinebold, who has coached in college and the pros for two decades, will be promoted to replace Singletary. McKnight also applied officially for a job on the staff.

"His application came in, but he doesn't coach d-line, so he's not getting hired," Jones said.

After the 2000 season, McKnight resigned as a UH assistant coach to return to his family in San Diego, where he also owns a car-cleaning business.

"My family's important," McKnight said. "They were entrenched there. I came from a broken home with no father. Even though I wanted to be here (Jones is) the best football coach I've ever been around as a player or coach at the same time, my allegiance was with my family. I know how important it is to have the family structure and the unit together."

McKnight said one of his daughters is entering college and another is entering high school, "and if there's an opportunity to come back and coach, obviously I want to be here. ... Now my family situation allows it to happen. Before, it didn't."

Of the possibility of eventually rejoining the staff, Mc-Knight said: "It will be if it's meant to be, and I think it will. I don't know what (Jones is) going to do as far as moving things around. I know he was always there for me, and now I kind of told him, 'If there's something, I'm here for him.' "

Jones said McKnight already has made a contribution. It appeared yesterday's downpour would wash out the third day of spring practice.

"We were in my office, and Dennis said, 'What about the baseball stadium?' " Jones recalled. "I said, 'Let's see if it's in use,' and it wasn't."

The Warriors practiced for two hours on the AstroTurf at Les Murakami Stadium.

"Our (grass) field was standing water," Jones said. "It was either go lift weights or come out here if nobody was using it."

Then Jones said of McKnight: "He's here because he's a good friend, and he has good ideas like coming to the AstroTurf."

ESTES STUDYING HARD TO MAKE HIS JOB A SNAP

While Samson Satele is trying to complete school work, John Estes, who redshirted as a freshman last season, has made the bulk of the snaps as the Warriors' center in spring practice.

"I'm trying to get the calls down," said Estes, who is competing to succeed Derek Fa'avi, last year's team captain.

Book-ended by experienced players, Estes is trying to gain the leadership required of a position that makes all of the blocking calls.

"I'm still working on it," he said. "Those guys have been here four, five years. They pretty much know everything. You have to listen to them. They know, and I haven't been in a game situation yet."

Estes has several role models. His great-uncle is Rockne Freitas, a former pro player. His cousins are Makoa Freitas, an offensive lineman with the Indianapolis Colts, and Kahai LaCount, a UH nose tackle.

Estes, who is 6 feet 2 1/2 and 285 pounds, also has improved his strength and grip with intensive weight training.

"I didn't like sitting out last year," he said. "It was hard to be patient. But I knew our o-line was really good, and I understood I was young, not even strong enough to play. I had no game experience. I've worked harder on getting stronger."

RECEIVER MAHALEY HONORED WITH TATTOO

Wide receiver Antwan "Tua" Mahaley is of African-American and Native American ancestry, but "I'm Samoan at heart."

That is why Mahaley will have his adopted name, "Tua," tattooed on his right shoulder.

Mahaley and UH teammate Laupepa Letuli are childhood friends raised in Carson, Calif. Their parents were in the same business.

"Back in Carson, it was all Samoans and blacks," he said. "I grew up with Samoans. They're my good friends."

Mahaley embraced the Samoan culture so much he earned the name "Tua" from Letuli's father, who is of Samoan royalty.

"I'm honored," he said.

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.