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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 2, 2010

No place like home for talent in football


By Ferd Lewis

As they crunched recruiting numbers from around the country, sports writers for the Tulsa World newspaper were suddenly confronted with head-shaking reasons to double and triple check their figures.

In compiling a list of the biggest hotbeds of college football talent one state kept jumping out. Not the usual suspects Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, California or Louisiana either.

But ... Hawai'i?

"Yes, that's what we thought," said Matt Baker, whose exhaustive nationwide look at recruiting produced some eye-opening results.

Did you know, for example, that on a per capita basis, Hawai'i produced more players on major college rosters in 2009 than any other state? (3.8 players per 1,000 boys ages 15 to 19, according to the Tulsa paper).

Or that Hawai'i's total was 50 percent better than the next state? That Honolulu was not only the biggest metro hothouse for talent, but was 40 percent above No. 2, New Orleans?

That's something to keep in mind tomorrow on national letter of intent day when 30 or more players from Hawai'i could sign.

At first Baker said he thought the fact that the University of Hawai'i was the only football-playing school in a state 2,500 miles removed from the continent might explain it. "We assumed that spiked the numbers," Baker said. But even after removing the 62 players on the UH roster with Hawai'i hometowns from the equation, "that still left 105 (players) from Hawai'i."

While Hawai'i players are the heart of UH's program, they also added muscle to the Pac-10 and elsewhere. According to the Tulsa World study (http://bit.ly/TulsaFBReport), Honolulu contributed as many players (36) on Pac-10 rosters as Portland, Ore. And as many as Sacramento, Calif. and San Jose, Calif. combined.

"The numbers back up what I have long suspected," said Keith Amemiya, executive director of the Hawai'i High School Athletic Association. "The number of schools recruiting here has increased significantly over the last few years for a good reason: the talent."

In part UH is to blame for the increased recruiting competition in its backyard. The Warriors' success over the years, witness the 2007 march to the Sugar Bowl, has given coaches everywhere an appreciation for the talent here in particular and in those of Polynesian ancestry in general. So, too, has the performance of Hawai'i athletes at places like Nebraska, Tennessee, USC and the NFL.

Come signing day tomorrow, there should be no wonder that football players are among the state's booming industries.