Warriors' Elimimian honored by WAC
By Stephen Tsai
By Stephen Tsai
It was the third of September, that day Hawai'i linebacker Solomon Elimimian will always remember.
That was when Elimimian turned LenDale White, top-ranked Southern California's boulder-sized running back, into a rolling stone.
"It was a zone, and I went through the hole, and I had a pretty good hit on him," Elimimian recalled. "He's a big guy. I tried talking smack to him, but he brushed me off. He made me feel kind of bad. I guess I thought about it more than he did."
That opener to the 2005 season was the UH debut of Elimimian, then a freshman from Los Angeles. Elimimian had tackled White, now the Tennessee Titans' starting running back, after a 1-yard gain. It was the first of Elimimian's 404 NCAA tackles.
Elimimian, who is the Warriors' career leader in tackles, is in reach of the Western Athletic Conference record of 443 tackles, set by Texas-El Paso's Robert Rodriguez.
If the Warriors defeat Washington State Saturday, they would clinch a winning regular season and earn the accompanying berth in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl. That would mean Elimimian would need to average at least 13 tackles in each of the final three games to tie Rodriguez's mark.
Elimimian made 13 tackles, including 10 solo takedowns, in the Warriors' 49-17 victory over Idaho on Saturday. Elimimian yesterday was named the WAC's Defensive Player of the Week.
"I give credit to our defensive line for that award," Elimimian said. "They put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Me, Adam (Leonard) and Brash(ton Satele) were free (from blocks) all game. That's a credit to our line.
"I remember one play where Fale (Laeli) took on two guys. He threw the center, and I made the tackle."
Elimimian also tipped a pass that led to strong safety Keao Monteilh's interception.
"He makes so many outstanding plays, you take it for granted," defensive coordinator Cal Lee said.
Lee, who recruited Elimimian to UH, had predicted the senior middle linebacker would have a productive collegiate career.
"You could tell he was something special from the beginning," Lee said. "He worked his way up to be a starter. Ever since he got the position, he never gave it up. He has the fire, that competitiveness that you want. He's always striving to get better."
On an off day during the bye week, Elimimian ran sprints on his own — in the rain.
"It's all him," said Mel deLaura, the Warriors' strength and conditioning coach. "It's all desire. It's a big key to why he's doing so well. He comes in on Sundays and does leg workouts."
Elimimian said: "At the end of the season, you tend to be more fatigued. Coach Mel tries to keep me strong. The hard part is getting into the weight room. Once you're in there, it's pretty easy. You've got to put in the work."
Elimimian, who is 6 feet, said he tries to keep his weight at 230 pounds. "That's where I'm comfortable playing," he said.
Elimimian has a 3.1 cumulative grade-point average. This semester he will complete his studies in his English major. He is on track to earn a bachelor's degree in 2009.
While Elimimian wants to attain marks, he does not want to retain any marks. He does not have any tattoos.
"It might be for some guys, but it's not for me," he said. "My mom would probably kill me if I had one."
PILARES HOPES TO PLAY
Slotback/running back Kealoha Pilares said he is hopeful of playing this week despite a sore right foot.
"My foot is killing me," said Pilares, who had missed two games this season because of a sprained right foot. He played in the last two games.
"I might have to do something magically to it so I can play," he added.
QB SANTOS 'THANKFUL'
Against Idaho, fourth-string quarterback Jake Santos took a knee, and then gave thanks for his second-chance blessings.
Santos had only this season to play at UH after transferring from Missouri Southern last year.
He has not been discouraged by his lack of playing time. He had to redshirt last year in accordance with NCAA transfer rules, and he is sparingly used in practices.
Still, Santos said, "I'm thankful for being here, and being part of the team."
He played two years at a junior college, then transferred to Missouri Southern in 2006. But he never played a down for the Division II school after suffering torn knee ligaments.
Instead of calling it quits, he called UH, asking to join as a non-scholarship player.
In 2007, he was allowed to practice but not play in any games. He was named the Warriors' top scout for offense.
"I never quit on my goal of playing Division I football," Santos said. "You want to play every game, but you realize that things happen that you can't control. What you can do is put in your best effort. I felt I always put in my best effort."
Against Idaho, Santos was summoned for the final three plays — a handoff to Jayson Rego, a rush for no game, and a game-ending kneel. His mother, who lives in San Diego, stayed up to watch the entire game. "She called and said, 'Congratulations,' " Santos said.
Reach Stephen Tsai at email@example.com.