Woolsey wants to re­pay Rolovich for be­lief in him

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - SPORTS - FERD LEWIS ——— Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@starad­ver­tiser.com or 529-4820.

There are any num­ber of rea­sons why Ikaika Woolsey is de­ter­mined to make a suc­cess of the op­por­tu­nity to be the Univer­sity of Hawaii’s start­ing quar­ter­back this sea­son.

But one of them might sur­prise you.

Of course, he wants to make the most of his se­nior sea­son. Sure, he seeks to turn things around for a pro­gram that has suf­fered five con­sec­u­tive los­ing sea­sons. And, boy it sure would be fun to ac­quit him­self by bring­ing the crowds back to Aloha Sta­dium while sling­ing a hail of touch­down passes.

But you sense there is more to what mo­ti­vates Woolsey than that. There is also a mat­ter of en­dur­ing loy­alty, even the re­pay­ment of a debt, if you will, to head coach Nick Rolovich, the man who be­lieved in him when few did. The man who backed up that be­lief by pro­vid­ing the op­por­tu­nity to play col­lege foot­ball.

TO UN­DER­STAND the depth of that com­mit­ment you have to go back to 2011, when Woolsey was com­ing out of Sale­sian High in Rich­mond, Calif. He had records, touch­downs, hon­ors and, of course, as­pi­ra­tions of play­ing col­lege foot­ball.

What he didn’t have were re­cruiters beat­ing a path to the fam­ily home in Rodeo, Calif.

In fact, Rolovich, a young UH as­sis­tant coach, was one of the few to make the fam­ily’s ac­quain­tance. In the process he also won their trust and grat­i­tude.

Rolovich would soon de­part for a brief stop at Mas­sachusetts and, fi­nally, Ne­vada, af­ter not be­ing re­tained by Norm Chow in the staff changeover.

But be­fore he left UH, Rolovich, schol­ar­ship in hand, pitched Woolsey on the op­por­tu­ni­ties at UH.

“He (Rolovich) was the rea­son why I came here in the first place,” Woolsey said. “He was the only one who really gave me a chance out of high school. He was the one who saw some po­ten­tial in me.”

The bond was such that even when Rolovich joined the Wolf Pack they kept in con­tact. “My fam­ily really liked him,” Woolsey re­called. “We trusted him a lot.”

Five years later, they have been re­united at UH, where Woolsey has emerged from a seven-man scrum to be named the start­ing quar­ter­back for the Aug. 26 (Hawaii time) sea­son opener against Cal­i­for­nia in Aus­tralia.

Woolsey has seen a lot go­ing into his fifth sea­son at UH. A lot of coaches (seven of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tors, if you’re count­ing) and not a few of­fenses, to be sure. “I can put a lot on my re­sume, I’ve learned about four or five dif­fer­ent of­fenses since I’ve been here.”

Woolsey said, “It has been frus­trat­ing to get new coaches a lot, but at the end of the day it is what it is. It is out of my con­trol. I’ve just tried to make the best of the sit­u­a­tion.”

Along the way he’s been part of a re­volv­ing door at quar­ter­back, start­ing 19 games over parts of three sea­sons. It is a span in which UH has gone 8-30, in­clud­ing 4-15 with him as a starter.

“It isn’t what we wanted the past few years and, hope­fully, I’ve saved my best for last,” Woolsey said. “Hope­fully this one is a bet­ter sea­son.”

One of the rea­sons be­ing “I have a loy­alty to him (Rolovich),” Woolsey said. “I ap­pre­ci­ate that he gave me a chance.”

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