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Friday, December 04, 2009

Niumat, Ellerson Go Way Back

One of the more interesting subplots of this year's Army-Navy football game surrounds the relationship between Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo and Army counterpart Rich Ellerson.

Ellerson was an assistant coach at Hawaii when Niumatalolo was a senior at Radford High on Oahu. Niumatalolo, a left-handed quarterback, led his high school team to the Prep Bowl Championship that year and that attracted the interest of the hometown Rainbow Warriors.

As it turned out, Ellerson was the Hawaii assistant who showed up at the Niumatalolo home in the North Shore town of Laie to recruit the local prospect. It was a big moment for Niumatalolo, who had not received interest from any other Division I school.

Simi and Lamala Niumatalolo served Ellerson a traditional Samoan meal. "I'm not sure Coach Ellerson knew what he was eating or liked it, but to his credit he finished everything on the plate," Niumatalolo joked. "We were trying to butter him up a little bit so I could get a scholarship offer," Niumatalolo said.

Ellerson, who grew up in Tucson, Arizona, remembers there were plentiful portions of the Polynesian-inspired feast. "I remember it was Samoan food and Kenny's sisters made sure I had plenty of it," he said.

Niumatalolo would become a graduate assistant at Hawaii and earned a position on the full-time staff when Ellerson departed to become an assistant athe University of Arizona in 1992. "I would not be here if it wasn't for Coach Ellerson. He was the one who came to my house to recruit me. When he left Hawaii, I took his spot on the staff. My playing career and my coaching career got a start because of Coach Ellerson."

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