By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
The Bob Wagner era of University of Hawaii football gave Rainbow Warrior fans some of the most memorable moments in school history, including the program’s first WAC title and postseason bowl game. “Coach Wags” is also the only head coach to beat BYU more than once. But who were the very best Rainbow Warriors from this era? Here is our Top Ten list, in ascending order:
10. JUNIOR FA‘AVAE, LB (1991-94) – The team MVP and First-Team All-WAC selection in 1994. Led the team in total tackles in both 1993 and ’94.
9. DARRICK BRANCH, WR (1989-92) – The most dynamic wide receiver of the Wags era. Led the team in receiving in 1992, with 25 receptions for 491 yards and 5 TDs. (Remember, this was when Hawaii was primarily a running team.) Ranks No. 14 in career all-purpose yards (3,095).
8. AMOSA AMOSA, OL (1985-88) – A standout performer who served as the anchor of the teams’s offensive line for four seasons. In 2009, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin tabbed Amosa as the 42nd greatest Rainbow Warrior of all time. A two-time All-WAC selection.
7. TRAVIS SIMS, RB (1989-91) – Team MVP and First-Team All-WAC selection in 1992. In 1992, Sims set the school record for rushing yards in a single season (1,498), a record that lasted for 25 years.
6. MA‘A TANUVASA, DL (1990-92) – A key member of the UH defense in the early 1990s. Helped the Rainbow Warriors earn their first and only Holiday Bowl appearance. A First-Team All-WAC selection in 1992.
5. JEFF SYDNER, SB (1989-91) – The closest thing to Gary Allen since Allen graduated in 1981. He even wore Allen’s #26. Left for the NFL following his junior year. He still ranks fourth in UH history in career all-purpose yards, with 4,137 yards running, receiving and returns (118.2 yards per game). First-Team All-WAC In 1990.
4. GARRETT GABRIEL, QB (1987-90) – The BYU Slayer. The Maryknoll alum led Hawaii in passing and total offense in 1989 and 1990 and was named team MVP in ’90. Gabriel still ranks No. 6 on the program’s career passing list, with 5,631 yards.
3. MARK ODOM, LB (1987-90) – One of the most dynamic pass-rushing linebackers in UH history. Longtime fans still remember Odom’s four-sack performance in Hawaii’s 56-14 rout over BYU in 1989. He wasn’t a one-game marvel, either. Odom had double-digit sacks in three of his four seasons in Manoa, leading the team all three seasons. A two-time First-Team All-WAC selection.
2. MICHAEL CARTER, QB (1990-93) – Pound for pound, Carter may have been the toughest player to ever wear a Rainbow Warrior uniform. Like a Timex watch, he always took a licking but kept on ticking. Quarterbacked UH to a share of the WAC title and a Holiday Bowl victory over Illinois. He mastered Paul Johnson’s spread offense. Carter remains the only player in program history to surpass 1,000 yards in both passing and rushing in the same season (1991).
1. JASON ELAM, PK/P (1988-89, 91-92) – Yes, the best UH player of the Bob Wagner era was a kicker. Elam was as reliable a performer as Hawaii fans have ever seen. A First-Team All-American, he finished his collegiate career as the third-leading scorer in NCAA history. Elam was successful on 79 of 100 field goal attempts and once converted 91 straight point-after attempts. He was recently nominated for the College Football Hall of Fame.
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