• Stephen Tsai-Honolulu Star-Advertiser

UH lineman Wa‘a more show than tell


CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM

UH offensive lineman John Wa‘a ran through drills on Thursday. Wa‘a was selected as one of four co-captains by teammates last week.

Hawaii football player John Wa‘a is a conversational conservationist.

“John is quiet, even at home,” said his father, Harry. “He could sit next to you all day and not say a word unless you ask him something.”

When Harry asked his son about walking into the Michigan and Ohio State stadiums, the response was: “nice.” Asked about a visit to Disneyland, the answer was: “fun.”

CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM

John Wa‘a blocked Asotui Eli during practice. Since joining the Warriors in August 2013, Wa‘a has not missed a practice.

“I knew he had to be excited about Disneyland because I was, but he had no emotion,” Harry said.

But when it comes to the Rainbow Warriors’ roll call, John always answers: “Here.”

Since joining the Warriors in August 2013, he has not missed a practice. After redshirting that year, he played in 38 of a possible 40 games the next three seasons. For the second consecutive year, he will start at left guard.

“We go through all the seniors’ bios in the first team meeting,” coach Nick Rolovich said. “In reviewing it, we saw how many games he’s played for this university. The bio says ‘12 games … 12 games … 14 games …’ He’s played a lot of football. That showed up in the voting. He’s the guy people rely on.”

In a players’ vote, John was selected as one of the four co-captains. Harry, lost in emotion, texted his congratulations to his son. “He texted: ‘Thank you so much, love you,’” Harry recalled. “Really little words. He’s always been like that. He does it mostly with actions. He’s more show than tell.”

John said: “I’m happy my teammates trust me.”

There was one outburst. The Wa‘a family had qualified for Hawaiian homestead in Kapolei. By accepting, the family would have to move from Hau‘ula right before John could enroll at Kahuku High as a freshman. “He was so upset,” Harry recalled. “He wanted to play for Kahuku.”

John said: “Kahuku was my childhood dream.”

The Wa‘a family ended up staying put. Then again, the family members are longtime citizens of Red Raider Nation. The family motto is: Bred to be Red. Harry was 15 when John was born. “My dad was on the team,” John said. “I was going to the games when I was a baby.”

John and several Kahuku players had been football teammates since they were 9. They each have “Tokoua” — brotherhood in Tongan — inked on their bodies. That left little doubt which college John would attend.

“Hawaii is home,” John said. “You can’t beat it. My family is here.”

Wa‘a, who also can play center, is an effective lineman in pass protection, zone blocks and pulls. Wa‘a and blind-side tackle Dejon Allen are left-sided complements.

Rolovich acknowledged Wa‘a’s quiet demeanor belies his leadership skills.

“You’ve got to do it your own way,” Rolovich said. “I don’t want him to change. He’s not somebody you want to test. You can’t mistake quiet for too nice. He’s banged with a lot of people in the trenches. If he needs to, he can make himself heard.”

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