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Teammates, friends remember UH football player

Willis Wilson drowned off Sandy Beach on Nov. 30

By Stephen Tsai

LAST UPDATED: 10:07 p.m. HST, Dec 9, 2013

About 400 teammates, coaches, friends and administrators attended this evening's "celebration of life" ceremony for University of Hawaii running back Willis Wilson. 

Jack "Willis" Wilson III died on Nov. 30 of an apparent drowning off Sandy Beach. He was 21. 

Joe Onosai, the Rainbow Warriors' chaplain and a former UH player, said Wilson had a "great perspective" on life. Onosai said Wilson's upbeat personality, accentuated with a disarming smile, was traced to an "amazing heart." 

"How we see life," Onosai said, "is in the state of your heart."

Onosai then recited this Abraham Lincoln quote: "In the end, it's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years."

Teammates, roommates and running backs coach Chris Wiesehan recalled a player with a box-fade haircut who wore retro-styled clothes and often broke out into 1990s-inspired R&B songs and raps. 

Wilson was born in Pearl City and raised mostly in Washington state. He was a walk-on running back at the University of Washington for three years before transferring to UH this past summer. 


He shared a house in Kaimuki with four teammates and a volleyball player. Every day, roommates noted, Wilson entertained with outlandish dance moves and impromptu singing. 

Teammates Harold Moleni, Justin Vele and Haani Tulimaiau sang a hymnal during the hourlong service. Sonny and Marsha Kapu sang two Bob Marley songs. 

Jack Wilson Jr., a former UH football player, recalled long conversations with his son that he called "special gifts."

"Willis Wilson was much more than my son," the elder Wilson said, "he was my best friend."

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