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A Hungry Recruit

By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.

In chapter four of his 2017 memoir, college football coaching legend Dick Tomey talked about the importance of recruiting. “It’s been called the lifeblood of any successful college football program,” he wrote. “A great recruiting class can lay the foundation for a top-flight program. A poor recruiting class—or too many of them—can send a coach to the unemployment line.”

Tomey went on to recount one of his favorite recruiting stories – the time when he was courting Kamehameha running back Kaulana Park:

It was one of those surreal Jack Buck moments. (You know, “I don’t believe what I just saw!”) And it happened in the home of one of our country’s most preeminent heart surgeons.

I don’t remember the exact date, but I believe it was a day in January of 1980. Dr. Richard Mamiya, who had played football for the University of Hawai‘i in the 1940s, was a tremendous supporter of our program. On occasion, he and his wife, Hazel, would host prospective recruits at their beautiful Hawai‘i Kai residence. On this day, the Mamiyas had invited me and Kaulana Park to their home for breakfast.

At the time, Kaulana was one of the premier recruits in the state. The 6-2, 220-pound fullback had led Kamehameha-Kapālama to a pair of Prep Bowl appearances and was part of an outstanding senior class that also included Leroy Lutu (University High), John Kamana (Punahou), Falaniko Noga (Farrington) and Boyd Yap (KaIsner). I was locked in on the idea of adding Kaulana to our UH backfield. Stanford was also after him, however, so we were fighting an uphill battle.

Kaulana and I arrived at the Mamiyas’ home at our appointed time, and the four of us made some small talk. We made our way to the dining room, where Hazel had already set the table. She went to the kitchen and returned with this enormous tray of breakfast delicacies: bacon, sausage, eggs and so on. I smiled when I saw all that food. A feast was awaiting us! Hazel put the tray down in front of Kaulana, and we said a blessing for our meal. As soon as we said, “Amen,” Kaulana looked straight at Hazel and said, fork in hand, “Wow, this is great. Thank you.” Then he started eating straight off the platter!

The platter of food was meant for the four of us, but Kaulana thought it was all for him. I stared in amazement as he went through the entire platter. Within minutes, he had cleared the entire tray! Hazel, bless her heart, didn’t say a word. She simply returned to the kitchen to prepare more food for the rest of us.

Looking back on our get-together always brings a smile to my face, and I still kid Kaulana about it all the time. Not unexpectedly, he did wind up signing with Stanford and had a productive career there. He later returned to the Islands and has done some great things for our state.


Rise of the Rainbow Warriors: Ten Unforgettable Years of University of Hawaii Football is available at Watermark Publishing, Amazon.com and wherever books are sold.

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