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5 seniors walk the walk

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Five Hawaii football players do not believe in a degree of difficulty.

"If you go to class, you’re going to learn something," cornerback Jeramy Bryant said.

Twenty-eight Warriors will play their final regular-season game tomorrow when UH hosts Nevada-Las Vegas at Aloha Stadium. After the game, they will participate in the traditional "senior walk."

Bryant, safeties Mana Silva and Spencer Smith, offensive tackle Laupepa Letuli and defensive end Elliott Purcell already have earned bachelor’s degrees.

"We’re proud of them," UH associate head coach Rich Miano said. "They accepted the challenge of doing well on the field and in the classroom."

This past week, Silva stayed up 28 hours straight working on a chemistry project.

"It’s always good when you immerse yourself in difficult things, especially the sciences," Silva said. "You can learn a lot. My favorite is biology, and the human body. It intrigues me how we are as human beings, inside of us and outside, socially and mentally."

One of the most intriguing studies was Silva’s youth. Through the sixth grade, he had difficulty reading. He was assigned specialists and tutors to help him study. Medical tests did not show any neurological problem.

"It took me a while to get up to speed," Silva said.

Then one day, in middle school, he gained clarity. A childhood problem faded away.

"I started to learn at an accelerated level," Silva said.

He made the honor roll at Kamehameha-Hawaii. At UH, he has a cumulative grade-point average above 3.5. He aspires to a career in medicine.

"My mom reminds me of the time I couldn’t read," Silva said. "It goes to show you can continue to improve in any aspect."

For Smith, payback came in the form of a UH football scholarship. Thousands of dollars, in fact.

When their son was 2, Ginna and Mel Smith decided to invest in the Florida Plan, a college fund available to Florida natives.

The way the plan works is contributions to the fund are accepted through a student’s senior year of high school. The money then goes toward a student’s tuition at a Florida university. The bonus is contributors are charged the tuition rate of the year when their child was 2. For the Smiths, that meant if Spencer attended a Florida university, he would only pay the school’s 1990 tuition rate.

Spencer Smith was eligible for the fund, even though he was born in Clearwater, Fla., but eventually moved to Georgia.

Because Smith received a UH football scholarship in 2006, his parents received their money back from the fund.

"It was a win-win situation," Smith said.

He said the refund helped pay for his family’s trips to Hawaii and the West Coast for UH games.

"Not quite," said Mel Smith, when asked if the refund covered all of the plane tickets.

Spencer Smith took eight semesters and three summer sessions to earn a degree this past summer.

"If you go to class, you’ll find something to learn, even if you don’t want to," Smith said.

Purcell remembers parent-teacher conferences as if they were held recently.

Well, they were.

Purcell and Keani Santos are parents to two sons; the elder child attends preschool.

"I remember my parents taking me to teacher conferences," Purcell said. "Now I do the same with my son — and I’m still in school."

Purcell said fatherhood helped him "buckle down and focus on school work. I use it as motivation."

The reward, he said, comes at the end of a day of school, practice and meetings.

"That’s when I can spend time with my sons," he said.

Next semester, he plans to be with his sons during the day while Keani completes work on her bachelor’s degree.

Bryant said education is primary for UH’s secondary.

"We’re having a competition," Bryant said. "The secondary is trying to get the most guys graduated."

Bryant, who is married and has a daughter, said motivation also came from his UH recruiter, George Lumpkin.

"Coach Lumpkin was on my butt all of the time trying to get me to graduate," Bryant said. "I try to do well in every single class."

Bryant is a member of the 2008 recruiting class, Greg McMackin’s first as UH head coach. That summer, McMackin implemented a program enabling each player to take up to two classes during the summer.

"That really helped," Bryant said.

He said he was an average student in high school. The wake-up call was delivered when he was in junior college.

"I hit the harsh reality," Bryant said. "I really worked at school after that."

Letuli is UH’s Kevin Bacon, the link among several segments of Warriors.

Letuli played alongside centers Samson Satele, now with the Oakland Raiders, and current snapper Bronson Tiwanak.

"I was here when Derek Faavi was here," Letuli said.

Letuli was recruited by Mike Cavanaugh, who resigned shortly after Letuli signed in February 2005. At UH, Letuli has had five line coaches: Wes Suan, Dennis McKnight, Brian Smith, Alex Gerke and, now, Gordy Shaw.

Letuli also has played running back, defensive end, four of the five offensive line positions, and tight end.

Because of a variety of injuries, Letuli was allowed back as a sixth-year senior this season. He is considering participating in UH’s Pro Day in March. Then again, he took part in last year’s Pro Day. He also has a future as a musician.

"It went by fast," said Letuli, who earned a bachelor’s degree this past May. "That’s why they say college is the best time of your life. It’s true. I had a lot of fun."

 

THE SENIORS

» Dustin Blount, slotback, will earn a bachelor’s degree Dec. 18, sociology major

» Rodney Bradley, left wideout, May 2011, finance

» Jeramy Bryant, right cornerback, graduated August 2010, sociology

» Lametrius Davis, left cornerback, May 2011, speech/communications

» Chizzy Dimude, running back, December 2011, communications

» Scott Enos, kicker, December 2011, sociology

» Brysen "Bula" Ginlack, Dec. 18, sociology

» Alex Green, running back, December 2011, sociology

» David Hafoka, defensive tackle, Dec. 18, sociology

» Ryan Henry, slotback/ punt returner, Dec. 18, speech/communications

» Jake Heun, linebacker/ running back, May 2011, European history

» Kainoa LaCount, offensive tackle, December 2011, sociology

» Laupepa Letuli, right tackle, graduated May 2010, sociology

» Mana Lolotai, middle linebacker, May 2011, family resources

» Ikaika Mahoe, defensive tackle, May 2011, Hawaiian studies

» Joseph Malabuyoc, linebacker, Dec. 18, kinesiology

» Parker Paredes, linebacker, May 2011, geography

» Kealoha Pilares, right slotback, May 2011, kinesiology

» Elliott Purcell, left defensive end, graduated August 2010, sociology

» Kapono Rawlins-Crivello, May 2011, Hawaiian studies

» Brent Rausch, quarterback, May 2011, sociology

» Greg Salas, left slotback, Dec. 18, sociology

» Mana Silva, safety, graduated August 2010, psychology

» Spencer Smith, safety, graduated August 2010, sociology

» Adrian Thomas, right guard, Dec. 18, communications

» Mike Tinoco, wideout, Dec. 18, finance

» Bronson Tiwanak, center, May 2011, sociology

» Kamalu Umu, right defensive end, May 2011, sociology

 

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