The Best Isle Football Camp Ever

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - March 03, 2010
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It could very well be the coolest football camp in Hawaii - ever. OK, that may be stretching things a bit. No doubt someone more in tune to the history of such events could offer well-researched challenges to the claim. After all, Honolulu has played host to any number of camps, boasting untold numbers of players, many associated with the Pro Bowl.

In February, Chris and Ma’ake Kemoeatu and some 20 colleagues, to perhaps salve the wounds of local football fans forced to watch the Pro Bowl on TV for the first time in 30 years, shared their knowledge with local gridiron stars in the making.

So Jacky Budar, owner of Barefoot League Clothing Company, isn’t exactly breaking new ground with his Field of Legends Football Clinic, but the lineup he’s come up with is worthy of notice. And not just for the usual names that pop up at these camps.


The March 6 event at Aloha Stadium offers a historical time line of UH football. In addition to Colt Brennan, Davone Bess and Samson Satele, campers will get to rub skinned elbows with the likes of Leonard Peters (check out his cool tats), Eddie Klaneski (Peter’s heat-seeking missile fore-bear), Houston Ala, David Maeva and all-time passing leader Tim Chang. Others offering instruction will be Vince Manuwai, Aaron Francisco, Chris Naeole, former Bronco defensive lineman Maa Tanuvasa, who is still a beast and has avoided the post-playing days midline spread, four-time Super Bowl champ Jesse Sapolu and that “one bad Ma’afala,” as ESPN’s Chris Berman famously labled Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala.

“It’s for the kids. I want to see their smiles. Honestly, I don’t even know why I am doing this,” says Budar with a big laugh. “It’s very expensive and I am just praying I break even.”

In addition to the NFL and former UH players taking part, 20 young cancer patients have been invited.

“It’s to give back to the community. It is not just for the kids who can participte but it’s for the ones who want to be around local celebrities.”

Budar says the decision to invite the kids began with Bess, who hosted the children and their families at the Waikiki Aquarium Feb. 20. Each child will receive a limited-edition Davone Bess T-shirt. The same shirt was sold at an autograph-signing last week, and proceeds are being donated to the American Cancer Society.

For the former Warrior, who has become one of Miami’s most reliable receivers, the day of drills also is a chance to reconnect with former teammates.

“I’m excited,” said Bess. “It’s an opportunity for us to reunite and talk about old times, talk about our undefeated season and all of that - laugh and giggle, but most important sharing that joy with our fans and the kids in the camp.”

Bess extended his family vacation to take part in the camp. He, wife Rachel and 1-year-old daughter Kyrah were making their annual trip to visit family and friends in the Islands when Budar called.

Bess agreed to participate for reasons more than developing athletic skill. This is a chance for the campers to learn from the instructors’ examples, and to use that as a road map for their future. The message he says he will try to impart is that hard work and education are the basis for success, whether the camper’s future is in athletics or not:

“This is where it all starts. We were in their shoes and it’s taken a lot of hard work to get where we are now. It took a lot of dedication, listening to our parents, listening to our teachers, our coaches and our mentors. They want the most success for us, and without school and grades and being a good person and being productive, there is no way you can have a professional job, whether it’s football or becoming a doctor. One way or another you are going to have to go to school, you’re going to have to learn and appreciate what you’ve got and not take what you have for granted.”

It’s a message he knows well. Bess left UH after his junior year only to discover the league was hardly interested in a small receiver from a pass-happy program - even one with great hands and quickness who seemed a perfect fit as a slot receiver. He signed a free agent deal with Miami and worked his way from being an NFL afterthought to becoming the second-most prolific nondrafted rookie pass catcher in league history.

Bess followed up his 54-grab rookie year with a 76-catch sophomore season, while drawing comparisons from former Broncos coach Dan Reeves to All-Pro slot stud Wes Welker. Still, he wasn’t entirely happy.

“I was disappointed in the way I went about the season,” he says. “Sometimes I was inconsistent. I definitely could have done some things a lot better than I did. From a production standpoint, I actually had a better year, but in my rookie year I was more clean with it, more sharp.”

Maybe having a good friend in camp will change things. During the off season, the Dolphins signed his former receiving mate at UH, Ryan Grice-Mullen. Bess said he would help his former teammate in any way he can, but said things will be much different than when they were in college and dominating defenses.

“This is the NFL, it is not college anymore. You have to have a totally different mindset. This is a business.

This is no fun and games. It is a grind, and you have to take advantage of every opportunity you are given, because they are rare. The window of opportunity is very slim, so you have to make the most of what you get.”

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