POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Nov 09, 2013
GREENBELT, Md. » Navy football coach Kenny Niumatalolo was on the clock.
He recalled his time as a graduate assistant coach for his alma mater, the University of Hawaii, with a wife, child and a monthly paycheck equivalent to a football scholarship.
"It's hard to pay for your rent in Makiki and feed your family on $400," Niumatalolo recalled.
His wife, who worked in a doctor's office, made this proposal: If Niumatalolo didn't land a full-time coaching job when his GA stint ended in two years, he would need to get a "real" job.
Niumatalolo had experience in the non-football world each summer. He worked for a company that supplied the cardboard base used in pizza-delivery boxes. His job was to tear the cardboard into squares.
"I started at 6," Niumatalolo said. "By 6:15, my fingers were cramped. I couldn't move my fingers. I'm next to this Filipino woman and she's just ripping and talking, 'Hey, Ken, how's the team?' I'm like, 'This woman is stronger than I am.' "
His strength, it turned out, was in coaching. He said he loved serving as both a graduate assistant and video assistant.
"It was a fun time at UH," he said. "I lived near the school. I just knew the clock was going to run out on Cinderella and hopefully the shoe would fit."
UH and Niumatalolo were a match. After completing his two years as GA, he was hired as a UH assistant coach in 1992. That season the Rainbow Warriors went 11-2, punctuated with a victory over Illinois in the Holiday Bowl.
After stints at Navy and UNLV, he returned to Navy as offensive coordinator in 2002. In 2007, he was named head coach.
"It's worked out," Niumatalolo said. "I enjoy what I do. I enjoy my work."
Of his path, he said, "I just wanted to get a job where I could feed my family."
It comes full circle today when Navy plays host to Hawaii in Annapolis, Md.
For Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper, a UH graduate and former quarterback, "it's another game. We're trying to get a W."
Jasper added: "My wife and kids have been very patient. When you lose, you're a grump all week long. When you win, it's great. The point is every game is big. ... It's a bottom-line profession. You gotta win games."
It is a crucial matchup. The Midshipmen are 4-4, falling short in last week's loss to Notre Dame.
The visiting Rainbow Warriors, meanwhile, are 0-8. They are in the final leg of a two-game, 10-day trip.
The Warriors have tried to remain upbeat. On Thursday evening, they visited several Washington D.C. landmarks.
On Friday, they met with Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz, posing for pictures on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. After that, they went on a private tour.
That afternoon, they practiced for 40 minutes at Bowie State's football field.
They were given free time in the early evening.