Waiakea duo gets wish
Azevedo and Muramoto sign to play in college
by Kevin Jakahi
Tribune-Herald Sports Writer
The duo also started in the same situation, entering Waiakea with no football experience. Both were too big to play Pop Warner football in their youth.
Azevedo recently signed to play for the University of Montana-Western, which is coached by Tommy Lee, the brother of Hawaii assistants Cal and Ron Lee.
Muramoto signed to play for Midland Lutheran, in Fremont, Neb., which has 11 Hawaii players on its roster, including seven from the Big Island.
"It feels good," Azevedo said. "Coach Lee met me and talked to me and called up a few days later and offered a football scholarship.
"He said they wanted me for defense, and wanted me to play right away."
Both schools play on the NAIA level, but in different conferences. Montana-Western plays in the Frontier Conference. Midland Lutheran competes in the Great Plains Athletic Conference.
Last season, Montana-Western finished 2-9, including a 2-6 conference record. Midland Lutheran went 6-4, overall and in the conference.
Azevedo is a 6-foot-2, 310-pound defensive lineman. Muramoto is a 6-foot, 330-pound offensive lineman.
"It's a pretty good feeling," Muramoto said of signing. "It's something I've always wanted to do since I started playing football."
Playing football on the collegiate level has a special meaning for Azevedo, who played on the Waiakea basketball team and now competes in track and field.
"It's a dream of mine," he said. "It fulfills a promise to my little brother, Ryan Lehmann. We lost him to leukemia on Dec. 19, 2004. He wanted me to play college football and succeed after high school.
"I play for him and I want to do everything right."
Azevedo will probably feel right at home at Montana, which is known as "Big Sky" country, because he works on his grandfather's ranch. The state is also home to Yellowstone National Park.
Fields of grain cover much of Montana's plains. It ranks high among the states in wheat and barley as main crops with sheep and cattle as significant contributors to the economy.
"I work on my grandpa's ranch in Waiakea-Uka," Azevedo said. "I move cattle, fix fences. I'm the guinea pig. I'll do everything."
At Midland Lutheran, Muramoto will see several familiar faces, like Jinho Tohara, a 2005 Kealakehe graduate. Tohara rushed for 195 yards on 34 carries this past season.
"It feels good that I'll know Hawaii people when I get up there," said Muramoto, who's also on the Waiakea track and field team. "Going to Midland, I'll have an opportunity to play and I played with Jinho guys before.
"The coach (Bob Dzuris) said he looks forward to seeing me and once I get up there they'll evaluate where I fit in."
Nebraska is a leading grain-producer with bumper crops of corn and wheat. That's the main reason Nebraska is nicknamed the Cornhusker State.
Like Azevedo, Muramoto, who plans to major in elementary education, believes he's found a perfect match with his college choice. Azevedo is undecided about his major.
"It'll take time to get adjusted, but I think I'll fit in," Muramoto said.