Until about this time last year Jo Ann Fukao was a self-described "non-football fan" and, at first glance, maybe not exactly who you'd think to go to for insight on what makes a celebrated college team.
But as an Aloha Airlines flight attendant she and the crew handling the University of Hawai'i football team's charter flights grasped early on some of the reasons last year's Warriors were so special, both on and off the field.
Some of her remembrances, originally meant to be a letter to The Advertiser, say a lot, we think, about the character and chemistry of the team that went 11-3. They speak to how the Warriors handled the rigors of college football's most demanding travel schedule while winning both games and fans.
All worth remembering as the current Warriors prepare to confront back-to-back road games. They'll journey to Louisiana Tech and Nevada-Las Vegas, a 10-day separation that can go a ways toward defining their season. As June Jones put it after Saturday's 63-6 demolition of Northern Colorado, "To be something special we know we need to win on the road early."
To do that, the 2006 Warriors make for a good example. They compelled Fukao to write: "I have had the pleasure of being on a few of our UH Warriors' charter flights to the Mainland. And from this former non-football fan of any team, I — and many of my co-workers — are now reading the sports page and looking up articles of any kind about 'our boys.'
"When did this familial feeling start? Observing them get to their seats on their first charter flight this past season, we could tell immediately that this team was different. No roughhousing; no rude remarks; no over-the-top machismo. They helped each other with their bags, laughed easily and showed respect for each other. But we had 6 hours ahead of us. Will it last?
"Yep, it sure did. Colt (Brennan), Ikaika (Alama-Francis), Jason (Rivers) and many others did their homework. Many read Bibles. A few took out their ukuleles and sang. Leonard Peters helped us dispense earphones and picked up rubbish. At all phases of the flight they were kind to the crew. True to their aloha spirit, they gave us hugs as they left. Having children of the same age, my inflight crew of three felt proud as moms and were definitely smitten.
"Colt's decision to stay (at UH) reflects the strength, humility and character that is our University of Hawai'i Warriors. Their lives have touched ours in no small way and we, at Aloha Airlines, are grateful for being a small part of their life story."
A story that begs for a sequel.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com or 525-8044.