LOS ANGELES – In the cool shade of a group of trees, UCLA offensive tackle Micah Kia rolled his jersey up over his shoulder to reveal a centuries long path that has delivered him to this place and time."The symbol of a young warrior going into adulthood," Kia said as he began to slide a finger up a tattoo that runs from his right wrist up and around his arm to his shoulder.
The tattoo designed by the Hawaiian native's family elders is an account of past battles, victories and disappointments, a road map of the physical and spiritual paths that carried his family from Tahiti to Hawaii and now Kia to the eve of a 2010 UCLA season in which he hopes lead the Bruins in a new direction. A story that is more than just skin deep.
"It's part of my identity," the fifth-year senior from Mililiani, Hawaii, said looking down at the tattoo. "It's who I am."
A young warrior and inspiring elder, determined that the next chapter in his and his family story will be one of triumph.
"I would like to make a positive impact," Kia said.
Kia's return from career-threatening knee injury is already a source of inspiration in Westwood. He made eight starts at tackle as a sophomore in 2007, played in all 12 games in 2008, making seven starts at three different positions on the line.
But Kia tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in presseason drills last Aug. 19. The injury required reconstructive surgery and kept Kia out of contact drills this past spring. By this Tuesday he was back in the first team, this time at right tackle, his place the result of 2009 starter Mike Harris' one-game suspension and Kia's own determination.
"He's a great role model for the young guys and the old guys as well," guard Jeff Baca said.
"He has an awful lot of experience and we certainly missed him last year," offensive line coach Bob Palcic said. "I just hoping he's totally recovered from his knee reconstruction and it appears that he's totally healthy. He's taken a real leadership role and I think he's going to have a real good season."
Through a long and painful rehab Kia found inspiration in the story written in his skin. And now as he prepares for the 2010 season, he believes it also reveals a timeless lesson.
Kia shrugged when the conversation turned to the Bruins being picked to finish eighth in the Pac-10 by media covering the conference.
"There's more than one way to get to your destination," he said, "and the underdog is one way."
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