Keeping their dreams alive
• Photo gallery: University of Hawaii football tryouts
BY Stephen Tsai
Walter Mitty — the fabled dreamer — now goes by such nicknames as "Pot Sticker," "The Beast" and "That Hockey Guy."
Nearly 100 hopefuls yesterday auditioned for walk-on spots on the University of Hawai'i football team.
They came from far (Maine and South Korea) and near (two are UH student managers).
In the 40-yard dash, some ran with Division I-worthy speed; some had times that were area codes.
And one of the most impressive — Trey Gadbois, a Marine — participated just for practice.
"I'm going through the admissions practice right now," said Gadbois, who is on active duty.
Gadbois, who is set to exit the military in a few months, has applied for UH's ROTC program. He competed in the tryout — 40-yard dashes, T-drills, bench-press repetitions of 225 pounds — as preparation for next year's auditions.
"I wanted to come down, see what I have to work on, and then go from there," said Gadbois, a wideout who is 6 feet 2 and 205 pounds. "I'll be back for the spring of 2011."
The rest were competing for about 15 spots on the Warriors' spring roster. The offseason conditioning program begins today. Only full-time UH students in academic good standing are eligible for walk-on berths.
To avoid the appearance of favoritism, all of the walk-on candidates who were not on UH's 2009 roster were required to participate in the tryout. The list included Joey Cadiz, a running back who missed the past two UH seasons while recovering from knee surgery, and Ryan "The Beast" Eastman, a Saint Louis School alumnus who relinquished a Weber State scholarship.
"I want to be a Warrior and play as a Warrior," Eastman said. "I don't mind starting from the bottom. I like it better that way."
Sam Ohai, a defensive tackle, transferred from Central Lakes College in Minnesota. He is paying for his school expenses using the commission he earned as a Realtor.
"It's a great opportunity," said Ohai, who is 6-3 and 348 pounds. "It's all about taking advantage of opportunities."
Sean Branick shared that sentiment. For the past year, he has served as student manager assisting Chris Tormey, UH's coordinator of special teams.
Branick, a junior, last played four years ago as a safety for Chaminade Julienne Catholic High. Asked why he would relinquish a manager's scholarship, Branick said: "It's not about the money. Coming out to practice every day, seeing it, wanting to live it, you never really let it go. I want to see how I tested against these guys."
After middling results, it is unlikely he will have to give up his day job.
"I'm just happy to be part of this team in any way possible," Branick said.
Branick, who answers to "Pot Sticker," received another nickname yesterday. UH players chanted "Rudy! ... Rudy!" when Branick ran his 40-yard dash.
"It was nice to get their support," Branick said.
Two players each nicknamed "Big Mike" also received Warrior support.
"Big Mike" Waiaman, of 'Ewa Beach, received encouragement from UH defensive tackle Vaughn Meatoga.
"Big Mike" Haralick had a fan club led by UH punter Alex Dunnachie, a fellow dorm resident.
"He's a nice guy," Dunnachie said. "I don't know what his last name is. We just call him 'Big Mike.' "
"That nickname has followed me everywhere," said Haralick, who is 6 feet 1 1/2 and 320 pounds. "I guess it's because I'm big and my name is Mike."
Haralick, who can play both guard positions, was raised in Washington state. He attended a junior college for a year and the University of Idaho for a semester. "This is my dream school."
Elmer Lim, a Kamehameha Schools graduate, had the best performance in the 225-pound bench press with 37 reps. "I was thinking, 'When am I going to be done?' " he said, smiling. "I was so tired. I was able to pound out the the last few reps."
And Chris Pemberton, a former hockey player, ran the 40 in 4.4 seconds.
Pemberton was stationed in South Korea for three years. After his discharge, he remained in the country, working as a disc jockey.
He moved to Hawai'i last May, joining the Air National Guard. Since June, with the help of former UH wideout Cy Hirota, Pemberton has trained for this tryout.
"I put on 20 pounds," said Pemberton, a wideout who is 6-1 and now 190 pounds.
UH is expected to make a decision in the next couple of days.
"It was great to be competing with my friends, and hopefully soon, my teammates," Eastman said. "The main thing is we want a chance to represent Hawai'i."