Hula Bowl coaches, players provide intriguing plot lines
What’s a reboot without juicy plot lines? After a 12-year hiatus, the Newsweek Hula Bowl returns today with two celebrated head coaches, a cast of intriguing players, and a “Supreme” singer.
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What’s a reboot without juicy plot lines?
After a 12-year hiatus, the Newsweek Hula Bowl returns today with two celebrated head coaches, a cast of intriguing players, and a “Supreme” singer.
Mike Smith, who was head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, leads the ‘Aina team, while Rex Ryan, who coached the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills, is the Kai head coach.
With two former defensive-minded coaches in charge, “it’ll be 3-0,” Ryan said. “No, I’m kidding. We’re going to light up the scoreboard. I’ve got Les Steckel as my offensive coordinator, and Ron Turner is Mike’s. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Steckel once was the Minnesota Vikings’ head coach. Turner is a former OC with the Chicago Bears, among many of his stops.
Ryan tabbed Kathryn (Smith) Marsh as his special teams coordinator. Marsh is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as the NFL’s first female assistant coach.
“It’s a surreal thing to think about the people who are in there (the Hall) and the people who are to come,” she said. “It’s pretty mind-blowing when you think about it.”
Marsh ascended from intern with the Jets to Ryan’s assistant. With a background in college scouting and experience drawing and analyzing plays, Ryan, as the Bills’ coach, recalled saying, “Kathryn, why don’t you just be the quality-control (coach) for the special teams.”
Ryan said he did not realize it was a historic move.
“We’re getting calls from Ellen, Oprah,” Ryan said. “That wasn’t our intent. She was there because she could do the job.”
The ‘Aina team has the top players from Division II (Slippery Rock quarterback Roland Rivers III) and Division III (North Central QB Broc Rutter). In 26 games since transferring from Valdosta State, Rivers threw for 7,181 yards and 80 touchdowns while rushing for 1,297 yards and 16 scores.
“Playing Division II football, we don’t have the resources the bigger schools may have,” Rivers said. “I was fortunate to be at a university with a great bunch of guys who wanted to be great and do special things. Hard work pays off.”
There are three members from national champion LSU, including defensive lineman Breiden Fehoko, who used to play the drums during Hawaii football games. His father was Vili the Warrior, who served as the Rainbow Warriors’ entertainer/mascot.
Five former University of Hawaii players — fullback Dayton Furuta, slotback Jason-Matthew Sharsh, wideout JoJo Ward, linebacker Solomon Matautia and safety Ikem Okeke — will play in today’s game. A sixth Rainbow Warrior, rush end Kaimana Padello, has participated in meetings but will not play while continuing to recover from a leg injury.
The son of a favorite island son — West Virginia long-snapper Rex Sunahara — also will compete.
“It’s always great to come back,” said Sunahara, whose father Reed Sunahara was an All-State player in basketball, volleyball and baseball at Hilo High. The elder Sunahara, an All-American volleyball player at UCLA, is the current women’s volleyball coach at West Virginia.
Rex Sunahara was born in Toledo, Ohio, then moved to Cincinnati, and eventually Cleveland. His surname often draws attention from sports fans who remember his father’s athletic accomplishments.
“Growing up, my brother, sister and I were kind of like, ‘how good was he?’ ” Sunahara said. “He doesn’t really talk much about it. He keeps it focused on my brother, sister and I, which has been great. But hearing all his stories from my uncles and aunties has been a real pleasure.”
While his father taught him baseball, which became his spring sport, his mother’s side encouraged him to try football. “Long-snapping came to me naturally,” Sunahara said. “It’s something I picked up and did to play varsity football as fast as I could, and I did that. My coaches told me, ‘you could play college football doing that.’ I never really thought that was a thing. I got lucky enough to play college football, and hopefully do this for a living.”
It was announced Sabrina McKenna will sing the national anthem. McKenna is a Justice of the Supreme Court of Hawaii and a former Rainbow Wahine basketball player.