By Lance Tominaga.
Earlier this week, I presented my (very) subjective picks for the University of Hawaii’s All-Time Offensive Team. This time around, I’ll focus on the defense. As you might imagine, it was a thankless and nearly impossible task. Historically, defense has always been the heart and soul of the Rainbow Warrior football program, characterized by bone-crunching hits and goal line stands. It was tough to leave so many great defenders off this roster. But here we go.
Defensive Tackle: LEVI STANLEY. A Second-Team Little All-American selection in 1973. Led UH in total tackles in both his junior and senior seasons. Finished his career as Hawaii’s all-time leader in total tackles (366, since surpassed by Solomon Elimimian and Jahlani Tavai.
Nose Guard: FALANIKO NOGA. Longtime UH fans still remember Noga’s epic battle with Nebraska’s Outland Trophy winner, Dave Rimington. (Rimington remembers it, too.) Noga was an All-WAC honoree for all four seasons he played at UH. Honorable Mention All-American in 1981. The “original 54.”
Defensive End: AL NOGA. “The Samoan Sack Man.” Probably the greatest defensive player in program history. Hawaii’s only First-Team All-American (1986). He was also the school’s first promoted Heisman Trophy candidate. Set single-season UH records for sacks (17), tackles for loss (31) and forced fumbles (6).
Defensive End: TRAVIS LABOY. Used his uncanny speed to become a standout edge rusher. In 2003, he recorded 13 sacks and 22 tackles for loss. The Tennessee Titans drafted him in the second round of the 2004 NFL Draft.
Linebacker: MARK ODOM. The program’s all-time leader in sacks (36) and second only to Al Noga in tackles for loss (68). Played his best when the games mattered most. To wit: In Hawaii’s exhilarating 56-14 blowout of BYU in 1989, Odom sacked Cougar QB Ty Detmer four times.
Linebacker: PISA TINOISAMOA. Led the team in sacks his junior and senior campaigns. Finished his career with 15.5 sacks and 38 tackles for loss. Became a second-round draft pick of the St. Louis Rams and had an eight-year NFL career.
Linebacker: SOLOMON ELIMIMIAN. Meet the school’s all-time leader in career tackles (434). Led Hawaii in tackles both in 2007 and 2008. Was voted the Canadian Football League’s “Most Outstanding Player” in 2014. Earlier this year, he was elected president of the CFL’s Players Association.
Cornerback: DANA McLEMORE. A First-Team All-WAC selection and Honorable Mention AP All-American In 1981. Snared 7 career interceptions at UH. Later won a Super Bowl ring with the San Francisco 49ers.
Cornerback: JERIS WHITE. Named First-Team All-American by The Sporting News and Time Magazine in 1973. Set the single-season record for interceptions (6, since broken by several players). Was drafted in the second round by the Miami Dolphins and won a Super Bowl ring with the Washington Redskins.
Safety: BLAINE GAISON. No, he didn’t set any school records. But there wasn’t a better leader or tougher competitor than Gaison. That’s why he’s in the UH Sports Circle of Honor. Started his career as a quarterback before transitioning to safety. Was a First-Team All-WAC selection in 1979. Later played for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.
Safety: RICH MIANO. The ultimate rags-to-riches story. Began his UH career as a walk-on and ended up as a First-Team All-WAC selection in 1984. Also an Honorable Mention All-American. Led his team in tackles in back-to-back seasons. Played 11 seasons in the NFL.
# # #