Hawaii football player Kealoha Pilares’ father knew best.
And this was before Pilares knew of Blaze Soares.
During the 2007 spring training, his first as a Warrior, Pilares, then playing running back, had to go up against heat-seeking linebacker Blaze Soares in several drills.
"He’s a big bully," Pilares said, smiling. "Blaze is Blaze. That’s how he is. He’ll run you over if you’re not ready for it. The same thing with the other guys. Over here, the defense is known for hitting. You’d better be ready to hit, or you won’t play. I wanted to play."
That is when the off-to-college advice of his father began to crystallize.
"My dad told me: ‘You’d better get your butt into the weight room,’" Pilares recalled.
After four years of intensive training, Pilares has gained 30 pounds of muscle and now is a 205-pound slotback.
Pilares is the current NCAA leader in receiver yards (682). After a school-record 18 catches for 217 yards in a 41-21 victory over Louisiana Tech, Pilares was named yesterday the Western Athletic Conference’s Offensive Player of the Week.
"It’s not anything special," Pilares said of receiving his first individual WAC award. "I didn’t win the Heisman or anything."
Because of the intensity of the game, Pilares said, "You kind of forget about everything. I didn’t know I was getting the ball that much, and I don’t think (quarterback Bryant Moniz) knew he was throwing me the ball that much. He was throwing it to the open guy. We had a lot of open guys."
Pilares credited the other receivers, particularly left slotback Greg Salas, for drawing away defenders. He also praised Moniz, marveling at the quarterback’s stiff-armed move on a scramble.
"I think that was his boxing skills, that jab," Pilares said. "You like to see your quarterback playing like that. It gives you goose bumps. Just watching Mo play is so exciting."
Pilares also has been entertaining, although he has been quick to embrace assistant coach Mouse Davis’ advice.
"Coach Mouse said two things can happen to you right now: ‘You can either get better or get worse,’" Pilares recalled. "We can’t think about anything except working hard."
Such distractions include pondering a football future beyond the Manoa campus. During the Colorado game, four NFL scouts praised Pilares’ post-catch abilities. Two weeks ago, a scout for the New England Patriots also gave a good review.
"If the opportunity comes, it comes," Pilares said. "I’m not going to worry about it now."
UH promoting Salas
On the Net:
UH is trumpeting Salas as an All-America candidate.
The senior left slotback has his own website.
But this past weekend, he received his first "minus" grade … as a safety.
For one play each Friday, Salas practices as a middle safety defending against Hail Mary passes. The Warriors want to use his height (6 feet 2) to knock down desperation passes. Entering Saturday’s game, Salas was used as a deep safety four times – each resulting in the opposing quarterback intentionally kneeling.
"I always say they’re afraid to throw it to you," associate head coach Rich Miano said.
In the final seconds of the first half against Louisiana Tech, Salas asked to enter.
"He’s back there, and nothing really happens," Miano said. "Then (6-foot-4, 240-pound Eric Harper) goes in the game, and he’s only in there to block. We knew that. They run a double hook-and-ladder, and that guy blocked Salas for about 20 yards. He stuck on Salas like glue. Salas couldn’t get off the stock block. It hurt me, but I had to give Salas his first negative."
Safety Mana Silva said of Salas: "He looks a lot more comfortable on offense."