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Naeole returns home, retired, set for new role

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    Former University of Hawaii player Inoke Funaki supervised a workout at yesterday's UH Big Man's Camp.

There was no cake. No watch. Not even a thank-you card.

"I didn’t file any retirement papers," Chris Naeole said of the end of his 11-year National Football League career. "I think (the league) filed papers for me."


Chris Naeole

The Kahuku High graduate had not played since the middle of the 2007 season. He then pulled up his shorts, revealing the scars from surgery to repair a torn quadriceps tendon.

He said his "quad was torn off the bone."

"It was bad," he said, his voice dissolving into a whisper.

He suffered the injury during a 2007 game against the New Orleans Saints.

"It felt like (the tendon) exploded," he recalled. "It was like somebody shot me with a gun. That’s life. That’s football. You never know when something like this is going to happen. It could be in high school. It could in college. You never know."

He then held up his scarred right hand. While recovering from the tendon injury, he said, "I broke this hand."

In March 2008, the Jacksonville Jaguars released him with two years remaining on a multi-millon-dollar contract.

"I’m 35, and this is a young man’s game," he said of his decision to no longer pursue an NFL contract. "There’s always going to be someone younger and cheaper. I moved my family back home. I know my wife is looking forward to the change."

While rehabilitating, Naeole was asked to train several high school players. At first, he resisted, insisting he wanted to focus on an NFL comeback. Then he relented.

"I didn’t think I would like coaching," Naeole said. "But I actually love it. It’s giving back."

This coming football season, he will be an assistant football coach at ‘Iolani School. His 12-year-old son attends ‘Iolani.

This weekend, Naeole is serving as a guest coach at the University of Hawaii football team’s Big Man’s Camp for linemen.

The second in the series of UH camps runs through tomorrow. There are about 100 campers, not including the visiting Tafuna High team from American Samoa.

Tafuna was en route to a camp in Oregon when it decided to tour the UH campus during yesterday’s 8-hour layover. Three of the Tafuna players changed from their travel clothes into shorts and T-shirts to participate in some of the drills.

"This is a good experience," said Tafuna coach Jason Magalei, who met UH head coach Greg McMackin during a goodwill visit to American Samoa last year.

Magalei said his players raised more than $100,000 to cover the trip to Oregon. But he said he wanted to make sure the team made a side trip to UH.

"We wanted to show our support," Magalei said.

Yesterday’s 2-hour session at UH’s grass practice field drew some of the state’s top prospects.

Defensive end Na’alii Robins of Saint Louis School said UH is his top college choice.

"I want to play in front of my family and friends," said Robins, who is 6-feet-2 and 240 pounds. "I wanted to come to this camp to learn from the (UH) coaches. I learned a lot."

Saint Louis defensive tackle Andrew Leae said UH is "one of my top choices."

Leae, 6-2 and 300 pounds, polished bull-rush moves he learned from Maa Tanuvasa, a former UH defensive tackle who played 10 NFL seasons.

The players went through a variety of drills, including one-on-one matchups.

At the end, the players gathered in a semi-circle. Former UH head coach Dick Tomey, Tanuvasa and Naeole delivered inspirational speeches.

"It’s good to give back," Naeole said later. "You know how it can be. ‘Oh, I’m from Kahuku,’ or ‘I’m from Saint Louis.’

"When you go away, it’s, ‘I’m from Hawaii.’ We’re all together. If I can help somebody from Hawaii, I’ll do whatever it takes."


More UH football coverage

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