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Perseverance pays off as LaCount gets first start for Warriors

  • DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM
    Kainoa LaCount, center, and the Warriors cheered during the final practice before the Hawaii Bowl.
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After reading the Hawaii football media guide and the school-published roster, offensive lineman Kainoa LaCount wants to set the record straight.

"I’m 6-7, not 6-6," LaCount said. "Don’t let the books fool you."

Yes, up until tomorrow’s Sheraton Hawaii Bowl — the last game of his UH career — LaCount is fighting for every inch.

That perseverance has carried him through the sidetrip of attending a junior college for two years, for waiting an additional year to earn enough transferable credits to UH, and for a two-year plight that culminates with the starting left tackle’s job in tomorrow’s game.

"He’s ready to meet the challenge," offensive line coach Gordy Shaw said.

LaCount is part of the shakeup to the left side of the UH offense. Billy Ray Stutzmann will start at left wideout ahead of Rodney Bradley, and Brett Leonard will open at left guard in place of Brysen "Bula" Ginlack.

It is LaCount who has conquered the most obstacles en route to a starting job.

His parents divorced when he was 2, and his mother, who works for the U.S. Postal Service, raised her two sons — Kahai, a former UH player, and Kainoa — on her own.

"My mom always stuck by me," LaCount said. "She gave me good advice, whether I listened to it or not. She’s a great woman. And she had to feed us. That was the hardest part."

Kahai offered guidance to his younger brother.

"He was a big influence," LaCount said. "I don’t think I left his side until I was 10. It wasn’t, ‘Please, leave.’ It was kicking me out because, ‘You cruise with me too much.’ "

Because he was too big for Pop Warner football, LaCount played soccer and basketball, with both sports helping him develop agility.

As a Kailua High freshman, his first season of football, he suffered a broken toe while playing tight end.

"That’s when I moved to tackle, and I haven’t moved since," LaCount said.

He had signed a letter of intent with Oregon State, but because he was 50 points short on his SAT, he attended the College of the Canyons in California. It was during that time when he re-connected with his father, who was living in California.

"I got close to the LaCount side of my family," he said.

He signed with UH in February 2008, but then learned he did not have enough transferable credits to play that year. When he reported in August 2009, he weighed about 360 pounds, and the scholarship offer had lapsed. His mother paid for his tuition and school expenses during his UH career.

"We had to peel about 50 pounds off of him," Shaw said. "Then we had to get him fundamentally sound. He was used to being big and latching on to guys."

Last year, LaCount was moved to right tackle, where he had difficulty adjusting.

This past summer, he was down to 320 pounds, and comfortable playing at either tackle position.

"I like his long arms, his attitude," UH head coach Greg McMackin said. "He’s really worked himself into shape. He has pro measurables. He works his tail off. He couldn’t have gotten himself into that shape if he didn’t work hard. I’m really proud of him. He’s got everything going for him. I like the heck out of him."

LaCount appears to have an easygoing demeanor. But he played two games with a broken hand, and on the field he plays with fury.

"I think bad thoughts," he said, laughing. "I guess it’s hidden emotions. I let them out. It’s fun to go out and hit people legally."

 

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