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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

University of Hawaii Football Senior Class

Posted on: Friday, December 1, 2006

Warriors create 'special' blend

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

To be sure, the University of Hawai'i senior class of 2006 is unique.

It features three sixth-year players (running back Nate Ilaoa, wideout Ian Sample and free safety Leonard Peters).

One defensive end, Melila Purcell III, is from American Samoa. The other, Ikaika-Alama Francis, moved from the UH basketball team, where he was a 190-pound forward.

Sample, wideout Chad Mock, linebacker Chris Williams and safety Mike Malala are not on scholarship.

Alama-Francis, running back Reagan Mauia, defensive lineman Renolds Fruean, linebacker Bully Fergerstrom and punter Kurt Milne started their UH careers as walk-on players.

Fruean takes the bus every morning from the Leeward Coast. Peters and tackles Tala Esera and Dane Uperesa drive in from the North Shore.

And all of them could exit with the winningest season in the program's history.

"This senior class has been kind of special," head coach June Jones said. "They've taken real leadership off the field and on the field."

The most special might be team manager Marissa Bonilla, who is completing her fifth season.

"She's been great," Jones said. "She has been very reliable and accountable. She does what she's supposed to do. She's going to be a great teacher one day in the school system. And she's a good snapper."

Indeed, as one of her many roles, Bonilla snaps the football to the quarterbacks during three of the passing drills.

"She has probably hundreds of snaps a day," quarterback Colt Brennan said. "She's unbelievable with the football. She can throw the ball like 30 yards, tight spirals. She's got great hands. The receivers throw the balls in, and she catches them with one hand, then turns around and snaps it to us. I'm impressed with how well she does her job."

She also helps set up the equipment, times the drills and, on game days, braids the players' hair.

Bonilla lettered in volleyball, basketball and softball at Kaua'i High. She learned of the manager's job through former athletic director Hugh Yoshida.

"I told my mom that's the only reason that I would stay in Hawai'i, if I could work in sports," Bonilla recalled.

Bonilla, who will graduate when she completes her student teaching, said she treasures her time with the program.

"I'm going to miss all of the coaches," she said. "They're like second fathers to me. They've been nothing but nice to me for five years."


Position: Defensive right end.

Hometown: Kane'ohe.

High school: Kalaheo.

Graduation day: May 2007 (sociology).

Fun fact: He knows every single line from the movie, "Predator."

Best UH football memory: "The friendships I've made. I can't say enough about the people I'm around every day. I'll remember some of the games, but I'll remember all of the friendships. They're such loving people. I'm blessed to be in a place like this."


Position: Slotback.

Hometown: Waipahu.

High school: Saint Louis.

Graduation day: Dec. 17 (political science).

Fun fact: He aspires to run for public office.

Best UH football memory: "This past game. It was the greatest game of my life, the way we came back and fought for each other. That's what a team is all about."


Position: Left tackle.

Hometown: Hau'ula.

High school: Kahuku.

Graduation day: Dec. 17 (sociology).

Fun fact: "I can juggle three balls. And I can do a head stand."

Best UH football memory: "The best is yet to come."


Position: Linebacker.

Hometown: Kamuela.

High school: Hawai'i Prep.

Graduation day: Dec. 17 (sociology).

Fun fact: "When I was a little kid, I had so much fat on my arms, it looked like I had muscles. That's how I got the nickname Bully."

Best UH football memory: "Probably the first game I played in the stadium. It started to rain. It was like home."


Position: Defensive lineman.

Hometown: Kapolei.

Schools: Waipahu High, Washington State.

Graduation day: May 2007 (sociology).

Fun fact: Earned the nickname "GEICO" after defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville said his long hair made him look like a caveman.

Best UH football memory: "The road trips and the games."


Position: Center.

Hometown: Waimanalo.

High school: Kailua.

Graduation day: May 2007 (communications).

Fun fact: He is a big-wave surfer.

Best UH football memory: "Being in camp with the boys."


Position: Running back.

Hometown: Stafford, Va.

High school: North Stafford.

Graduation day: May 2007 (history).

Fun fact: As a military dependent, he once attended five elementary schools in one year.

Best UH football memory: "Just everything about football. Everything's been good."


Position: Nose tackle.

Hometown: Kailua.

High school: Kailua.

Graduation day: May 2007.

Fun fact: He trains pitbulls.

Best UH football memory: "There are a lot of good memories. But (the best are) hanging out with all of my friends, and laughing at all of the stupid things everybody does."


Position: Strong safety.

Hometown: Honolulu.

Previous school: UH-Hilo.

Graduation day: May 2007 (psychology).

Fun fact: "I was raised in Washington."

Best UH football memory: "Cruising with the guys."


Position: Running back.

Hometown: Stockton, Calif.

Junior college: San Joaquin Delta.

Graduation day: December 2007 (family resources).

Fun fact: He trains for ultimate fighting.

Best UH football memory: "When I got my scholarship (in January). I was happy. My son was out here at the time. I was real happy I could get a scholarship for him."


Position: Punter.

Hometown: Roswell, Ga.

High school: Centennial.

Graduation day: May 2007 (economy).

Fun fact: His great-grandfather, A.A. Milne, wrote "Winnie-the-Pooh" and "The House at Pooh Corner."

Best UH football memory: "The Alabama game (in 2002) was my first big win since I've been here. It was against a big-conference team. That was the best memory. That game, the Purdue game, the Houston game. They're all up there."


Position: Wideout.

Hometown: Honolulu.

Schools: McKinley High, Avila College.

Graduation day: May 2007 (sociology).

Fun fact: He collects football cards.

Best UH football memory: "This season. This whole season."


Position: Cornerback.

Hometown: Honolulu.

High schools: Punahou/St. Francis (Altadena, Calif.).

Graduation day: Dec. 17 (English).

Fun fact: Patton and former UH volleyball player Victoria Prince are proud parents of Champ, a chihuahua.

Best UH football memory: "Playing wise, it was the Nevada game, because that was a great win. Watching wise, it was definitely the Purdue game. It was unbelievable. I would have given anything to get even one snap in that game. It was crazy. It was a great game."


Position: Free safety.

Hometown: La'ie.

High school: Kahuku.

Graduation day: Dec. 17 (sociology).

Fun fact: "I don't like A.C. It bothers my nose."

Best UH football memory: "Playing with all of my friends."


Position: Defensive left end.

Hometown: Pago Pago, American Samoa.

High school: Leone.

Graduation day: May 2007 (sociology).

Fun fact: He can dunk a basketball off a 360-degree move.

Best UH football memory: "Hanging out with the guys."


Position: Right wideout.

Hometown: Washington Township, N.J.

Previous college: Bergen.

Graduation day: Dec. 17 (English).

Fun fact: He has nearly finished writing a book.

Best UH football memory: "This whole season. The camaraderie, and the heart we have. I've never felt more like a team. In high school, I felt like a team. In college, it felt more like a business. But this year, just being healthy and playing with these guys, it's a great thing."


Position: Center.

Hometown: Kane'ohe.

High school: Kailua.

Graduation day: Dec. 17 (sociology).

Fun fact: He has not cut his hair since his freshman year.

Best UH football memory: "Meeting all of the guys."


Position: Right tackle.

Hometown: Hau'ula.

High school: Punahou.

Graduation day: Dec. 17 (communications).

Fun fact: He loves to sing.

Best UH football memory: "It would have to be this season, probably the last game against Purdue. Just the way we were down. Past teams might be out of it. But this team came together on offense. We weren't even worried. We said, 'We're going to score, convert the two-point conversion, and the defense will get us back the ball, and we'll score again.' The fact we can do that, like the great teams in the country. It's just a great feeling for me, especially in my senior year, to be part of a special group like this."


Position: Linebacker.

Hometown: Honolulu.

Schools: McKinley High, Fresno City College.

Graduation day: May (psychology).

Fun fact: "I can sing."

Best UH football memory: "It has yet to come. After we win our next two games, then the whole season will be a great memory."


Position: Nose tackle.

Hometown: Honolulu.

Schools: Farrington High, Dixie State College.

Graduation day: May 2007 (sociology).

Fun fact: He eats Zippy's teri-chicken mixed plate after every home game.

Best UH football memory: "Being on this team. Everybody is like family."

"This senior class has been kind of special," Hawai'i football head coach June Jones said. Standing, from left: Marissa Bonilla, Victor Fergerstrom, Nate Ilaoa, Michael Malala, Chris Williams, Melila Purcell III, Lawrence Wilson, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Samson Satele, Renolds Fruean. Kneeling, from left: Marques Kaonohi, Reagan Mauia, Ian Sample, Chad Mock, Kurt Milne. Sitting, from left: Dane Uperesa, Tala Esera, Ross Dickerson, Leonard Peters.

GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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