Feature article on UH’s walk-on program

Rich Miano (UH associate head coach) said that UH’s walk-on program:
“is the fabric of who we are. To me, it’s the best walk-on program in the United States.” (HA)

HA Note: “Miano, who played 11 seasons in the NFL, should know: After all, he is a former UH walk-on himself.”

About walking on to UH in the mid-1970s, Nelson Maeda said:
“I was just grateful for the opportunity to be playing at home. But right away, you were very aware of who was on scholarship and who was a walk-on. Basically, it was the difference between the ‘haves and the have-nots.’ ” (HA)

About earning a scholarship and a starting spot by his senior year, Maeda said:
“It was such a gratifying feeling.” (HA)

About how his walk-on experience has influenced the way he treats his players, Maeda (who has been the head coach at Castle High for 13 years) said:
“You enter coaching with a different perspective. You know how it is to have to work your way up.” (HA)

About how nobody offered him a scholarship, Miano said:
“None. Nobody.” (HA)

HA Note: “But at UH, he literally worked his way into the starting lineup and became an All-Western Athletic Conference safety before embarking on a lengthy NFL career.”

About walk-ons from Hawaii, Miano (who runs UH’s walk-on program) said:
“Hawai’i kids can’t always measure up when it comes to size or stats, but we’re passionate and play with a lot of heart. And the walk-ons are usually the hardest working guys on the team.” (HA)

HA Note: “David Stant was an all-star defensive lineman at Kahuku in 1980, but at 5 feet 10, 195 pounds, he had zero scholarship offers. So he entered the work force for a short time before serving a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Stant then resumed his football career at Yuma (Ariz.) Junior College, earning all-conference honors.”

About walking on to UH, Stant said:
“But I wanted to come home.” (HA)

HA Note: “As a UH walk-on, like Maeda, Stant started at the bottom of the depth chart and quickly learned the social hierarchy of scholarship players vs. walk-ons.”

About how walk-ons are treated differently than scholarship players, Stant said:
“You’re not treated like a blue-chipper, you have to put up with so much more. But it makes you so much stronger, it builds character, because you’re either going to quit or become a better man. They put me on the o-line, scout team, and we had to go up against guys like (All-American nose guard) Al Noga. But we never backed down.” (HA)

Stant said that working so hard without seeing any reward for his work tested his patience and:
“a couple of times I wanted to quit. But I didn’t, because I loved football so much.” (HA)

After UH suffered several injuries on the DL during Stant’s senior season in 1989, defensive coordinator Rich Ellerson told Stant:
“If you wanna play, here’s your chance.” (HA)

HA Note: “Stant, by then a chiseled 236 pounds, earned not just a starting position at defensive tackle but a scholarship as well.”

About finally getting his chance in his final season at UH, Stant said:
“When my break came, I was ready, and all my hard work paid off. It was like a dream come true.” (HA)

About trying to instill the values he learned as a walk-on and give opportunities to players who work extra hard, Stant (head coach at Kamehameha) said:
“That’s how our philosophy is. We have players who maybe should be starting but are not because they’re not hungry, and we have players who maybe wouldn’t be starting but are because they are hungrier. So long as you work hard, we’ll find a way to get you some playing time.” (HA)

HA Note: “Coming out of Hilo High in 1985, Sean Saturnio was bound for small college football and ended up at Division III Beloit (Wisc.) College. But after two relatively successful seasons, he “had an itch” to come home and play for Division I Hawai’i. As a 5-7, 169-pound slotback, however, Saturnio had to start out at the bottom as a walk-on.”

About walking on to UH, Sean Saturnio said:
“On the scout team, you don’t even get a real jersey — you get a yellow practice jersey. Nobody knows who you are, nothing is given to you. It really teaches you humility and appreciation, and perseverance.” (HA)

HA Note: “Saturnio never did earn a scholarship, but by his senior year he did earn a spot on the game roster, an experience he describes as “a pinch-me moment.””

About earning a roster spot by his senior year, Saturnio said:
“Coming from the Big Island, it was every kid’s dream to be a part of UH football. So the first time I saw my white jersey with the green number (39) hanging in my locker, it was a dream fulfilled.” (HA)

About teaching the virtues of hard work, teamwork and compassion, Saturnio (head coach at Waipahu) said:
“Being a former walk-on allows me to have a more empathetic view. It makes it a lot easier for me to relate to that kid who barely made the team, who doesn’t get to play much but tries hard anyway.” (HA)

About how his walk-on experience helped shape his life, Saturnio said:
“Going through that route, it helps me in anything I do.” (HA)



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