HONOLULU — It's been seven years since BYU senior safety Travis Uale played a football game in his home state.
Back then, he helped Kamehameha High win a state championship. Uale will play his final collegiate regular season game today (5:30 p.m., MT, ESPN2) at Aloha Stadium as the Cougars visit Hawaii.
"I can't ask for anything more than to play my last (regular season) game back home in front of family," Uale said. "I was getting some tickets and realized that my sister has never come to one of my games before. She'll able to go to this game. I'm excited for my whole family to be there. More than that, just being able to play a game there with my teammates, it will be special."
Uale is one of several Hawaii natives on BYU's roster.
How many of his friends and family members will be at the game?
"Not as many as (wide receiver) Spencer Hafoka," Uale said. "He has like 47 people coming. I've got about 20. It will be a bigger number than if we were playing in Provo."
Tight end Kaneakua Friel, who also played at Kamehameha High, will be reunited with friends and former teammates that play for Hawaii, including defensive end Vaughn Meatoga.
"I have a bunch of friends on the team, guys that I played with or against in high school. It will be a fun game for me, especially since one of my best friends is playing defensive end for them," Friel said. "It will be nice to play against him, and directly across from (Meatoga). But it's just another game. They're a good team, a respectable team. We've got to prepare and bring our best."
Friel was recruited by BYU, Boise State, Oregon and Nevada — but not by Hawaii.
"Maybe because it's because they don't run tight ends, or maybe because they didn't have any interest in me," he said. "Maybe I wasn't good enough, I don't know. It wasn't something I was thinking about. My dad really wanted me to come to BYU. As an obedient son, I saw fit to follow what my dad counseled me to do. It was the only choice for me. I'm glad to be here. I'm having fun."
Cougar defensive lineman Simote Vea, who played at Kahuku High, is also glad to be home.
"I'm pretty excited because I haven't played in front of my family in a long time," he said. "I hope I get to contribute and get on the field to help my team."
Vea remembers the last time BYU played at Aloha Stadium, a 72-45 victory for the Warriors. Vea didn't attend that game, but he was watching it on television — cheering for Hawaii.
"In 2001, I was wearing a green shirt. Not anymore, though," he said. "I watched that game, all five hours. I remember a lot of points were scored and I remember watching Chad Owens (who broke an NCAA record for most combined kickoff and punt return yards in that game) do a whole bunch of work. He was a little guy. It was pretty exciting to watch him."
BYU players from Hawaii understand how much this game means to the Warriors — who need a win today to become bowl-eligible — and their fans.
"They're always fired up for big games like these," Uale said. "Their fans get up for these games, especially the BYU-UH game. They'll always get up for it. But we're not worried about that. We're worried about what we can control. I've never been a part of this rivalry. I'm just excited to play this game. They're a good team, not a team to take lightly. We're going to be ready."7 comments on this story
"I keep telling (his teammates) to be ready," Vea said. "We know Hawaii's going to be up for this game. The last time BYU came down, it was a really big game."
Friel said he knows about the rivalry between the Cougars and Warriors, but he never got into it when he lived here.
"I've been to a few games at Aloha Stadium, but not a lot. I was never a UH fan," he said. "I'm not much of a sports fan. I don't watch much sports. I enjoy playing sports. If I had the opportunity to go to the beach or watch football, I would go to the beach."
Cougars on the air
BYU (8-3) at Hawaii (6-6)
Today, 5:30 p.m. MT
Aloha Stadium, Honolulu
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM