Estes is always front and center
• Photo gallery: UH football practice Tuesday
By Stephen Tsai
At Saint Mary's High School in Stockton, Calif., John Estes never skipped a class.
"You couldn't," Estes recalled. "They would call your parents right away."
His mother was the school nurse. His father was the district superintendent.
That good habit will be parlayed into the NCAA record for perfect attendance. Estes, a senior center, will be making his 54th consecutive start when Hawai'i hosts Wisconsin Saturday. According to a UH study, that will clinch the record for most starts in a row by a Division I-A player. Louisiana State left tackle Ciron Black will make his 53rd start in this year's bowl game.
"It's cool," Estes said. "It's staying healthy and working hard and being blessed."
Estes has not missed a start since his freshman year at Saint Mary's, when he had a broken left wrist. Even then, he only missed two games.
"It sucks not playing," he said. "I try not to miss practices."
At UH, he has not missed a snap because of injury.
His persistence is mirrored in the classroom. Estes is set to earn his bachelor's degree in two weeks.
"With my mom, it's always been school first," he said. "She built into me: 'go to school, don't miss any classes, raise your hand every once in a while, and you'll be fine.' "
FUNAKI ULTIMATE TEAM PLAYER
Lost in Bryant Moniz's ascension as a breakout quarterback is Inoke Funaki's sacrificial move to running back in the spring.
But Funaki, who was 4-2 as a starting quarterback last season, has no regrets about leaving the position he played since Kahuku High. What's more, he believes the move has been beneficial for the Warriors.
With injuries to the top two quarterbacks, Greg Alexander and Brent Rausch, Funaki surely would have taken control if he still were a quarterback.
But, Funaki said, "It's worked out for the best. Look at how well Moniz is doing. He's having a good season, better than what I could have had, no doubt in my mind. I watch him making a lot of those throws and reads, and the poise he has. I know it's not easy. I walked in those shoes before. I see him doing a lot of great things out there. It looks good for the team's future."
Funaki's only concern was the move happened in his senior year. He had suggested making a position switch a few times, initially in 2005 after returning from a church mission.
Once decided, Funaki embraced his new roles at running back and on special teams. He said it makes him appreciative of all aspects of the sport.
"I find when I'm watching the game, I'm attentive to all of the little things," he said.
In this past game, he tackled the kick returner. It was his first tackle since Pop Warner.
"I had no technique," he said, smiling. "Really, it happened so fast. It was like how I used to tackle my brothers when we were little kids in the living room. I was holding on. As soon as he went down, I was all jacked. I told the guys, 'Now I know why you get all jacked up when you make a tackle.' It's a rush."
Visit Tsai's blog at http://warriorbeat.honadvblogs.com.