Football talent, tenacity run in Correa family
• Photo gallery: UH football spring practice
BY Stephen Tsai
The eldest son, La'anui, used to wear a dark green Hawai'i football helmet while doing house work.
The youngest, Kamalei, received a UH football offer last summer — when he was 15 years old.
And the middle son, Haku, is now listed as the Warriors' No. 1 defensive right tackle.
Their source of athletic talent?
"They got it from me," mused Lani Correa, a single mother.
As a staff member at the Duke Kahanamoku Aquatic Complex, Lani raised her sons to respect others and love UH. She used football as the carrot to keep them in line.
"We knew our priorities and what we had to do if we wanted to play football," said La'anui, a former UH defensive end.
La'anui was a fierce pass-rusher. Haku appears to have inherited the intensity gene.
During yesterday's spring practice — the first full-contact workout — Correa made several big plays.
"There's always been a playfulness about him that's really turned into a sinister, aggressive attitude," defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said. "That's good. That's what we needed. I'll take all of those type of guys on defense."
Correa, a Damien Memorial School graduate, was part of head coach Greg McMackin's first recruiting class in February 2008. He redshirted that year, then played all of 2009 despite a torn pectoral muscle.
Entering the spring semester, Kaniela Tuipulotu, a transfer from Arizona, was projected to be the No. 1 defensive right tackle. But that was before Correa, at the advice of his older brother, began receiving his daily dose of iron.
"I hit the weight room every day," Correa said. "Even when it wasn't mandatory to be there, I was in there, pushing it, doing my best."
Correa, who weighs 295, can power-clean nearly 300 pounds and squat-lift 500.
"Haku has been working really hard," defensive left tackle Vaughn Meatoga said. "He's really hard on himself, and that's good. He's never comfortable. He has this fire. Before, I used to push him. Now it's back and forth. We push each other."
In the trench battles, the one who plays lower — the one with leverage — usually has the advantage.
"Haku pays with great pad level," Aranda said. "He uses his hands really well. He has a good knack for getting underneath (the block)."
The key, Meatoga said of Correa, is "that big butt of his, that lower-body strength. That's his anchor."
Correa said he often consults with La'anui.
"He told me to always do more than what the coaches expect of you," Correa said. "He's my role model. He was nuts, cleaning house (while) wearing his helmet. But I look up to him. I want to be kind of like him, but better."
La'anui said: "He's his own man. He does everything on his own. He knows what needs to be done, and what he has to work for."
THE BEST MAN
In these austere times, the Warriors found a 2-for-1 bargain.
Aranda said defensive right end Paipai Falemalu is "our best pass rusher, and he's probably our best run defender, too."
Falemalu, a third-year sophomore who was recruited as a linebacker, was moved to rush end in passing situations last year. This spring, he moved to the right side.
Falemalu spent the offseason developing the strength to hold the point against the rush.
"The coaches knew I could pass rush, but they wanted to see me do better against the run," said Falemalu, who is listed at 6 feet 3 and 230 pounds.
Meatoga said teammates joke that Falemalu uses his strength to make plays.
"He always throws people to the side," Meatoga said. "We always joke he has gorilla strength."
Falemalu is finally at full strength. He underwent shoulder surgery in 2008. Last year, he endured a painful high-ankle sprain.
He also cut off his long hair. "I got sick of it," Falemalu said. "I wanted a new look."
One of the most competitive battles is between right wideouts Royce Pollard and Billy Ray Stutzmann.
The position was vacated when Jovonte Taylor's eligibility expired and Malcolm Lane was suspended for poor grades during the 2009 fall semester.
Pollard and Stutzmann are both fast and athletic.
Pollard honed his pass-catching by using the Jugs ball-throwing machine. Pollard and wideout Joe Avery often used the machine for sessions lasting up to 90 minutes.
"I have a bag filled with junky balls; old balls we used in 2006," Pollard said. "They have the worst grip ever."
Pollard said he sets the machine to throw passes traveling up to 42 miles per hour. He is positioned eight yards away. He does not wear gloves.
"It's good to catch passes bare-handed," said Pollard, displaying his calloused palms. "You don't have the comfort of gloves."
Stutzmann also works on his catching and has studied hours of videos.
He said older brother Craig, a former UH receiver and coach, made "me watch (videos) since I was old enough to understand football. He was always there for me, giving me pointers."