Warriors' Iosefa on move again, this time to offense
• Photo gallery: UH football practice
BY Stephen Tsai
The past fall, Joey Iosefa traveled 2,500 miles from American Sāmoa to attend the University of Hawai'i.
Yesterday, Iosefa went 10 yards, from linebacker to running back.
He has made an easy adjustment to both moves.
Iosefa made a strong first impression in his debut at running back during the Warriors' fifth practice of spring training. He made a few knock-back blocks and gained yards with tough runs.
"He's physical," offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich said. "He put in hard work in the weight room. He loves being here. He's a great teammate. We're happy to have him on the offensive side of the ball."
Iosefa was a quarterback/safety at Fagaitua High in American Sāmoa. Two years ago, he was contacted by UH coaches.
"It was like a dream," Iosefa said. "I wanted to play college ball."
The Warriors made him a grayshirt offer, meaning he would sign his letter of intent February 2009, but not join the Warriors until January 2010.
Under grayshirt rules, Iosefa was allowed to attend UH as a part-time student in the 2009 fall semester. The stipulations were that he could not receive a football scholarship that semester nor practice with the team.
"I paid my own way, from my pocket," said Iosefa, who lived with relatives in Kalihi. He now is on full scholarship.
During the offseason conditioning program, Iosefa trained with the linebackers. He was at that position for the first four spring practices.
"He gave it a shot," Rolovich said. "The history of him having the ball in his hands made it a natural move."
Iosefa was notified after Monday's practice.
Iosefa, who is 6 feet 1, said he has gained 40 pounds since September, and now weighs 230. He can bench press 300 pounds.
Alex Green and Chizzy Dimude, both seniors, are expected to get most of the carries in the Warriors' one-back offense.
"We were looking for some young guys (to develop)," Rolovich said, referring to true freshmen John Lister and Iosefa. "They're going to give us that 1-2 punch as far as young guys. They will be contributing this year."
HE BEARS WATCHING
Lister knew that it would be an uphill battle to make the transition to Division I-A football, which is why his personal workouts involve uphill battles.
"I do a lot of running up hills," said Lister, who patterned his workouts after the ones used by his idol, the late running back Walter Payton, an All-Pro with the Chicago Bears.
Lister has run up Koko Crater, and hills near the UH campus.
"A lot of (Payton's) workouts were everyday functional things," Lister said. "There was a hill he used to run up in Mississippi. That's the same things I try to apply: leg strength, drive."
Lister even wears Payton's No. 34.
"He's like my idol, my role model," Lister said.
Lister, like Iosefa, was a grayshirt the past fall. Not attending school that semester was not an option.
"My mom was really adamant that I come out here," Lister said. "It was good to be around everyone. It was a lot easier to transition."
Lister took 10 credits in the fall.
He also used that semester to reshape his body. He replaced fat with muscle.
"He came in real young; he just turned 18 in November," running backs coach Brian Smith said. "Getting him into the weight room was good. He lost weight, but gained muscle.The next step over the summer is gaining more of that good weight."
Lister, who is 6 feet 2, now weighs about 210.
Although Lister is portrayed as a power runner because of his willingness to block, he actually has a slashing running style.
"He has the ability to make some people miss," Smith said.
FEELING AT HOME
Kamalu Umu, who was raised in Kapa'a, is looking forward to the the scrimmage on Kaua'i Saturday.
It will be his second homecoming.
Umu, who is 6 feet 2 and 295 pounds, transferred from a junior college to Charleston Southern in 2008. That Division I-AA program, according to Umu, offered the best living arrangement for him and his pregnant wife.
"It was a family deal I couldn't turn down," he said.
But living that far away from family members was difficult for his wife. At the end of the 2008 season, Umu requested a release from his football scholarship.
In accordance with NCAA transfer rules, he had to sit out the 2009 season.
Umu played well on scout teams last year, and he was projected to compete for a starting job at defensive left end this spring.
"They expect a lot, and they haven't seen anything yet," Umu said.
Umu is adjusting to an expanded role, and he has displayed flashes of promise this spring.
"I'm happy to just have a chance," Umu said.