Timmy Chang’s from Hawaii, but is he UH’s guy?

He’s sincere, he’s amiable. There can’t be a mean bone in his body. If it wasn’t for the fact that girls drool at the sight of University of Hawaii quarterback Timmy Chang, I might actually feel sorry for him.

But I’ll admit, as the season draws nearer, it’s hard not to.

This year, Chang gets his second chance to prove he is a good fit for the Warrior football program, and reporters around Hawaii can’t wait to see how it all pans out. Will the headline read: “Where’s Rolo?,” or will it say “Rolo who?”

It’s going to be the story of the fall, and I hope it all works out in Chang’s favor. Not just because he’s a nice guy, or because, like tennis starlet Anna Kournikova, he has a face that can sell newspapers.

But because Chang is a legitimate torch-bearer of local pride. A graduate of St. Louis, a local high school. A kid who says “aloha,” throws out Shaka signs and calls his elders Kapunas.

“He’s one of us,” one Kalaheo man put it.

Sure, it was wonderful to see the UH volleyball team win the national title. But I sure doubt Dejan Miladinovic and Costas Theocharidis grew up on poi or know much about the history of King Kamehameha.

And so it’s sad to think of what the media might do to one of Hawaii’s own this season if he can’t pick up where Nick Rolovich left off. Will it give him the same treatment it gave Ryan Leaf in San Diego?

“We tried you out, you flopped, let’s not try you again.”

Even if Chang’s a nice guy, a local boy and still has three more years of eligibility, the press can be fickle. If he plays well, he’s king. If he falters, so will his football reputation.

And so I asked him when he came to Kaua’i to talk to local youth, “What does it feel like being you, being the guy in the limelight with all of that pressure?” After all, at this stage of the game, he has everything to lose.

He told me he blocks these things out. He said, in his strikingly sincere manner, that he just plays football. He just focuses on the game.

But Chang must wonder. He knows the media can turn him from a Joe Montana to a Danny Weurfell overnight (if you just said Danny who?” you get my point).

The minute Chang fell to injury last season, his ability was questioned. Is he soft? Did he red-shirt the season because he couldn’t hack the job?

For a guy who, in 2001, led the country in total offense after three games, you’d figure he’d be cut some slack. But after his injury, in came Nick Rolovich, a brusque, unshaven San Franciscan with half of Chang’s charm but a whole lot of gun powder. He picked up the run-and-shoot right away and turned Hawaii into one of the most dreaded offensive powers in the country.

But was it Rolo who did it, and how much help did he get from Ashley Lelie? Will Chang have the same kind of offense to work with? Will the UH defense give him opportunities?

This much we’ll learn in time. But don’t be surprised if Chang’s first interception becomes a writer’s first opportunity to crucify him. It’s in the reporter’s blood to stir the pot.

But remember, if you can, that Timmy Chang has three more years of eligibility, and that’s three more chances to get the story right.


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