Woolsey wants to repay Rolovich for belief in him
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.”