Hawaii Warriors head football coach Nick Rolovich is an impressive leader. He strikes you as a friendly but firm personality absolutley commited to the Warrior football program. The day I met with him was on a Monday morning in March and already the Warriors football department was busy. Line coaches were in the corridors hands full of papers, players were in the building. I even caught up with the nuggety running back Diocemy Saint Juste casually cruising around the athletics campus on his motorbike. What struck me about my brief encounter with Diocemy was that he pays attention to detail. I remarked to him what a great year he had quoting the regular season figures of some 800+ rushing yards which he quickly corrected me and told me it was over 1000 thanks to his great game in the Hawaii Bowl win over Middle Tennessee in December of 2016. Little things tell you a lot.
When the Warriors began their first season game of 2016 in Sydney Australia against a quality football program in Cal they surprised many with their efforts. If it wasn’t for a few costly penalities and turnovers the ‘Bows could have gotten closer. The key to that game is they never gave in, they kept competing and that theme recurred throughout 2016. They scored some impressive scalps including a massive road win against a quality Air Force program 34-27. Then in the Hawaii Bowl against Middle Tennessee they were behind on the scoreboard but then racked up points through some innovative and entertaining football.
Rolovich who himself was a quarterback for the Warriors has been quick to emphasise to his players to play hard for Hawaii and represent the island, pitching his team to the footballing public of Hawaii who are craving for success. One only has to listen to the feedback lines on local ESPN radio over past seasons to hear the frustration of ‘Bows fans. He’s also appealing to alumni to buy into the program and request their help in adding their passion to the team.
In terms of their onfield talent they have some exciting players, their defensive secondary is young and will benefit from their first season together. Running back Diocemy Saint Juste is also another outstanding prospect. Dru Brown seems to have created some serious striking power at the QB position and if he can get support from his O-line than there will be plenty of points. The big unit in Jahlani Tavai at the linebacker position is another player who will be a key contributor to any future success for the Warriors. His aggressive and fierce tacking style stopped many opposition drives and he will only improve in the coming season.
Their schedule is reasonably favorable in 2017. Sure there are the long road trips with the season opener against a very beatable Massachusetts on the road, with their second game at home against Western Carolina and it is not unreasonable to see the Warriors beginning the season at 2-0.
In terms of the long travel, coach Rolovoch pointed out the Australian experience was extremely vaulable in terms of building team bonding and providing a once in a lifetime experience of playing in Australia of whom he says “hes never met a bad Aussie”. He was also quick to point the likes of Colin Scotts and twice Warrior MVP Scott Harding as excellent examples of the football talent that has been sourced downunder and he’s keen to see that tradition continue.
Over the past weekend the team went though some practise matches which were played in hot, testing weather and Rolovich was unapologetic in asking his players to endure such warm conditions. He’s very keen to remind his squad that whilst 2016 was acceptable, there is certainly no guarantee that it will follow. It will require hard work, commitment and an absolute buy in from every player and staff connected to the Hawaii Warriors program.
As I walked away from the athletics department, it was very clear to me there was a positive, workman like vibe permeating from the place. I’ve observed many coaches of differing sports and one of the key elements in leadership is the ability to have everyone on the same page. Nick Rolovich has that going on in spades at the Warriors football department and dont be surprised by what the Hawaii team can acheive in 2017.
NB: Many thanks to the superb and outstanding Warriors Media Relations director in Derek Inouchi who at short notice not only gave us a tour of the Hawaii Athletics facilities, but he graciously organised an interview with coach Rolovich. Derek, we are eternally grateful for your time and assistance with our story. It really was an outstanding gesture on your behalf.
The Hawaii Warriors first game of the 2017 college football season begins on August 27 at Massachusetts away.