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Physical Silva earns WAC honor

By Stephen Tsai

LAST UPDATED: 1:31 a.m. HST, Nov 2, 2010

When it comes to motivating safety Mana Silva, the Hawaii football coaches have tried the tough-like approach.

Associate head coach Rich Miano rehashed Silva's high school nickname of "Detour." Silva earned that handle as a Kamehameha-Hawaii quarterback who often scrambled out of bounds.

Assistant coach Tony Tuitoti used to call Silva "The Impostor."

"Earlier in the season, I wasn't making any plays," Silva recalled, "and Coach Tony said there was someone wearing my jersey who looked like me and acted like me but didn't play like me. He called me 'The Impostor.' That got me fired up."

Once the focus of comic routines, Silva is now making interceptions routine. Silva has five interceptions in the past five games, giving him 11 for his NCAA career. He is one pick short of the school's career record set by Kelvin Millhouse and Keone Jardine.

Yesterday, Silva and UH quarterback Bryant Moniz were named the Western Athletic Conference's players of the week for defense and offense, respectively.

Silva has drawn interest from pro scouts because of his playmaking skills.

More important than the interceptions, Silva is second on the team with 56 tackles, including 33 solo stops.

"Coach Miano emphasized being more of a physical safety," Silva said. "In the beginning of the season, Coach Miano said (the defensive backs) were as soft as butter. We've been trying to show we're tougher."

Some of the ribbing comes from Silva's collection of MMA fighter B.J. Penn T-shirts. Both are from the Hilo area. Silva said the connection stops there.

"I wear his T-shirt, and guys give me problems and issues with that," said Silva, who has been told he bears somewhat of a resemblance to Penn. "I don't think I look like him at all. He's a pretty bald guy, and I've got some hair on top. ... But I like to watch him fight."

Miano said: "We kind of chide him a lot. We talk about B.J. Penn being from the Big Island, and how tough people are from the outer islands. We're constantly on him, challenging him to be tougher, and Mana has responded. Give him credit. He's playing at a very high level."

Safety Kenny Estes said Silva "can hit. He makes big plays."

Silva began his one season at Oregon State as a quarterback before moving to defense. He said his background as a quarterback helps him read passing lanes.

"He's got such a gift for going for the football that you can't teach," head coach Greg McMackin said. "He watches the eyes of the quarterback. He goes for the ball like he's a receiver. ... He's really improved at being physical."

Silva said he supplemented his workouts with boxing drills, such as hitting the big bag.

During practices, he does not wear gloves. He said that strengthens his hands. Before each game, he receives a new pair of gloves from the equipment managers.

"Practicing without gloves helps a lot," Silva said. "When you put on the gloves, it makes it better. You get your new pair of gloves before every game, and, hopefully, they can do something magical for you. They've been working for me. It's great to have those gloves, with the brand-new smell."

Silva's next goal is to perfect his moves on interception returns. After intercepting Idaho's Nathan Enderle, Silva ran to his left, turned, appeared to go in the other direction, and turned again.

"I think I get too excited," he said.

Of that return against Idaho, he said, "We call it a hokey-doke. That's what we call quarterbacks when they don't really have moves and they just juke. That's what I did. I wanted to reverse fields. I looked, and didn't see an opening at all. I think I got a couple of yards."

Miano said: "He's going to set the record ... for minus return yards. We tease him about his returns. But that means he's making interceptions. He's creating opportunities for our offense. We're happy with everything he's doing for us. He's become a very good player."

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