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Saturday, November 22, 2014         

FURTHER REVIEW


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Monico's version of hitting a lot different than his dad's

By Dave Reardon

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The Warrior Bowl ended and most of the players gathered with family and friends to begin their weekend. For Jordan Monico, however, it was time to go to work.

Actually, he was already there.

After a quick hello to his parents, Mario and Tammy, the University of Hawaii middle linebacker and teammates Elmer Lum and Vaughn Meatoga followed up the final spring practice scrimmage by officiating flag football intramural championships.

Both events were Friday night, both at Ching Field.

"We finished up around 11:30, so it was a long day," said Monico, who works for UH's Department of Intramural Sports. "But it's a fun job. You learn a lot about other sports and you meet good people.

"It's relaxing."

Most wouldn't consider refereeing a stress reliever, at any level. But it's certainly less demanding than battling for respect on a Division I football team as a walk-on. And that's something Monico, a Moanalua graduate, has done since joining his hometown Warriors after transferring from Savannah State in 2009.

Interceptions in each of the last two scrimmages — including his first against All-America candidate Bryant Moniz on Friday — help his case for time on the field with the defense this fall.

"It's mostly being in the right place at the right time, making a good break," Monico said. "I'm still learning."

Monico was a running back last year, but it was special teams where he made his mark — on opposing ball carriers. He notched 23 tackles.

All-WAC performer Corey Paredes returns from surgery rehab in August and George Daily-Lyles has more experience. Sometimes, Paredes plays outside linebacker. So it will be interesting to see if Monico, a 5-foot-11, 235-pound junior, can get some playing time.

He will surely be busy again with the kicking game. Special teams coach Dick Tomey had Monico on every special teams squad Friday except kickoff coverage, and it's hard to imagine him not with that unit once the games start, since he excelled at stopping kickoff returners in 2010.

THE UH BASEBALL team hosted Louisiana Tech just a few feet away from Ching Field. It's the same location where Jordan's dad starred as an outfielder for the Rainbows nearly 30 years ago. Some say Mario Monico was UH's best hitter, ever. Count me among "some."

He said he's not surprised Jordan is playing college football rather than baseball. "Growing up he played everything, and he was always very physical."

Mario went to Farrington. He played youth football in Kalihi, where his teammates and competitors included the Noga brothers who later starred at UH and played in the NFL. "They weren't that big then," Mario said. "I remember Pete being so small he had to put rocks in his pockets to make the minimum weight of 80 pounds."

But Mario wasn't very heavy himself, and one of his high school baseball coaches talked him out of playing football at Farrington. He gained enough muscle at UH to plaster the record book with his name, and continued to hit in the pros. A chipped elbow weakened his throwing arm and probably kept him out of the majors.

"He's my idol, my inspiration," Jordan said of his father.

JORDAN MONICO ACCEPTED a scholarship to I-AA Savannah State because he was told he could play both football and baseball. But a coaching change altered that and hastened his return to Hawaii.

He's an outfielder, like his dad, and he's considered trying out for the Rainbows.

"I've thought about it. I still miss baseball," he said. "But I still want to play football."

And football is the best chance for a scholarship for the psychology major. There aren't any available right now, but as he steadily increases his value to the Warriors and climbs the depth chart, Monico edges closer to the front of that line, too.

Reach Star-Advertiser sports columnist Dave Reardon at dreardon@staradvertiser.com, his "Quick Reads" blog at staradvertiser.com and twitter.com/davereardon.






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