The football playbooks do not have a comeback route.
That pattern is a Plan B, activated only when the original play breaks down.
But for Hawaii right wideout Royce Pollard, the comeback route was his mission.
Born in Tripler Hospital, Pollard, who was raised on the mainland, knew his life’s path had to circle back to paradise.
“My mother’s side of the family is in Hawaii,” said Pollard, whose blood is mostly a blend of Hawaiian and African-American. “I wanted to get to know that side more.”
As a high school senior in San Diego, he pored through his college choices. UH offered him a chance as a non-scholarship player. Since money was not the object, Pollard accepted the invitation.
Growing up in California and Las Vegas, Pollard always felt Hawaii “was in my heart.”
With his family’s blessing, Pollard set his sights on developing into a contributor to the Warriors’ four-wide passing attack. Who could doubt him? His vision is 20/15.
“Royce is smart, athletic and a hard worker,” UH head coach Greg McMackin said.
That was apparent years ago. It was during a third-grade P.E class that Pollard was recruited to play football.
“The coach saw me playing kickball,” Pollard recalled. “I was making diving catches and all of that stuff. I was doing a lot of athletic stuff in P.E., for a third-grader. He asked me: ‘Do you play football? Do you play any sports?’ I told him I was just having fun with life. He introduced me to football.”
He was assigned to defense — much to his mother’s objection. She wanted him to play on offense.
His parents split up when he was young. He lived mostly with his mother. After retiring from the military, Anthony Pollard became more involved when Pollard was in the fifth grade.
“Sports was always fun,” Pollard said, “but he showed me how to have fun and train. He trained me to do better in sports, and that helped me have more fun.”
Pollard and his father are now best buds.
“We can talk about anything,” Pollard said. “We talk about all of the things he went through when he was growing up. The best thing is, he’s always there. He’s a consistent father. I make a call and — bam! — he answers right away. He’s that figure a son needs in his life.”
Anthony Pollard offered encouragement when his son waited for his turn in the playing rotation.
“He’s improved immensely,” said UH receivers coach Mouse Davis, architect of this version of the run-and-shoot offense. “You name it, he’s improved — running routes, reading the defenses. Everything he’s doing right now, he’s given great thought to.”
Quarterback Bryant Moniz said he has a “connection” with Pollard, who is best on crossing patterns and the 9 route, a dash along the right sideline.
“He runs every route well,” Davis said. “And he is always trying new things. We had a little discussion on a particular thing the other day. He came out that afternoon, and used it. He learns that fast.”
Best of all, Davis said, Pollard is skilled in improvising when Moniz is scrambling. That play, of course, is known as the comeback route.
AIR STRIKE TEAM
In this offense, every receiver is a potential target on every play — at least that is the idea projected to the defense. It is why there is an unwritten no-loafing rule. Receivers running routes at full speed can keep defenses honest, even when a pattern is a decoy.
The four No. 1 receivers — wideouts Darius Bright, who was suspended for the opener because of an off-field incident, and Royce Pollard, and slotbacks Miah Ostrowski and Billy Ray Stutzmann — are considered to be excellent route runners.
There is quality depth. Allen Sampson, a converted slotback, provides speed at wideout. Slotback Justin Clapp is a rugged blocker. Terence Bell has experience at all of the receiver positions. The sleeper is Trevor Davis, who could push for playing time as a true freshman. Davis is a tall receiver with deceptive speed. Charles Clay, a transfer from SMU, is sure-handed.