When Darrel "Mouse" Davis was heading back here for yesterday’s opening of University of Hawaii spring football practice, a friend suggested a place for him to stay.
Not recognizing the name, Davis said he inquired, "Is that a hotel, ’cause I’ve never heard of it."
"No, it is a retirement home," Davis said he was told.
When you are 78 years old and coaching a young man’s game, you get a lot of ribbing about age.
"(Associate head coach Rich) Miano asked me the other day if my social security number was 2 or 3," Davis said with a characteristic cackle.
It is revealing, however, that none of the jokes these days come from offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich, a well-known "character" on the UH staff and the man Davis has worked closest with the past year.
Part of it is undoubtedly a sign of the considerable respect Rolovich, a former UH quarterback in the offense, holds for the man who developed and popularized the run-and-shoot.
These days there is also the unmistakable urgency of squeezing as much knowledge as possible out of Davis, during what might be his last few weeks on campus. Davis, who lives on the mainland and will turn 79 when the season starts, said this will be his last spring coaching and he is undecided whether he will return in the fall.
So this could be the last chapter in a relationship rare, if not unique, in college football today. The 32-year-old Rolovich, who is just four years older than Davis’ granddaughter, was the youngest offensive coordinator in major college football last year when head coach Greg McMackin brought in Davis, the oldest assistant, to be a mentor in residence.
The idea was that Davis, who’d spent a half-century expanding and showcasing an offense invented by the late "Tiger" Ellison, would be a resource and sounding board for the first-year offensive coordinator.
Whether it would work with two men so many decades apart in age and generationally challenged in several areas was anybody’s guess. As Davis bluntly put it, "Nobody wants some old bleep looking over their shoulder, saying, ‘I would have done this and I would have done that.’ "
Davis, it turned out, was not that kind of a "bleep."
Said Rolovich: "You couldn’t have dreamed for it to turn out any better."
The bottom line on this April-December marriage of the minds came in a 10-4 season in which the Warriors led the nation in passing offense and finished in the top 10 in total offense and scoring.
"They’ve had a real good chemistry from the start; Rolo runs the show and Mouse pretty much invented it," UH quarterback Bryant Moniz said.
One of the initial indicators to its impending success was when the Warriors ran one of Rolovich’s so-called "special" plays — "something with a funky name like ‘fear the beard’ or ‘duck buns,’ " Davis recalled — and Rolovich asked for an instant assessment.
To which Davis reportedly replied, "That’s pretty bleeping average" and Rolovich quickly retorted, "Tell me how you really feel."
Then, they both broke into laughter.
The time is approaching for Rolovich to go it alone, but for one last spring you get the feeling the protege plans to glean all he can.
Reach Ferd Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org.