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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Amosa Amosa has always effected change, beginning with his prep days at Campbell

By Mike Wise / Special to the Star-Bulletin

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jun 28, 2009

n early 1984, Dick Tomey lured an 18-year-old lineman from Campbell High School into the memorabilia room of his house. Amosa Amosa, attending a recruiting barbecue held by the University of Hawaii's coach at the time, looked in awe at the gleaming trophies, signed footballs and yellowed newspaper clippings.

When Tomey plucked a jersey from a shelf and held it up -- Jesse Sapolu's old No. 76 -- the kid from Campbell was sold.

"You come here, this is your number," Amosa was told by Tomey, who clearly did his homework more than 25 years ago.

See, you leave Western Samoa at age 12 and your athletic hero isn't Joe Montana or Walter Payton. It's someone who looked like you, a future Pro Bowler of Samoan ancestry, who would block for Montana and Steve Young and win Super Bowls for Bill Walsh's 49ers.

"Jesse Sapolu was my idol, I was almost shaking," Amosa recalled. "I called home that night and said, 'Dad, I think I'm going Hawaii already.' "

Condolences were quickly sent to BYU, Utah, Washington and Portland State, which, now it can be told, was never in the running.

"As a senior at Campbell, I didn't even know where Portland was," Amosa said. "I was like, 'Portland, is that a state?' "

We laughed over the phone, catching up for the first time in more than two decades. Once my teammate on an inglorious Campbell football team in 1982, Amosa, two years behind me, would succeed me as the Sabers' starting center on the basketball court and become the school's most accomplished student-athlete of his era.

While I crisscrossed the mainland to finish school and start a journalism career, Amosa stayed home -- becoming one of the 100 greatest players in the annals of UH football, an accolade that has genuinely humbled him.

"All those great players, I just didn't know if they would put me on that incredible list," he said. "I am so honored, I can't even tell you."

His football accomplishments -- first-team All-Western Athletic Conference, named twice to the prestigious Warrior Club and to the 1988 Hula Bowl, member of the first all-Polynesian line in NCAA history -- cemented his credentials for UH's top 100. If he wasn't snapping the football and then nimbly using his 6-foot-2, 285-pound frame to pull his blocks in a triple-option offense -- if he didn't play on a UH team that knocked off No. 9 Iowa his senior season and was probably the best 9-3 squad never to go to a bowl game -- Amosa doesn't join honorees ranging from Larry Price to Colt Brennan, from Tommy Kaulukukui to Jason Elam.

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