The Warrior Beat

John Wilbur

December 11th, 2013

The blog host has led a surreal life, and one of the, um, surreal-est (?) moments occurred several years ago in a Kahala hotel. In a suite, the blog host found himself entertained by two rat-a-tat-speaking guys. One was the actor Sean Penn, the other was gonzo writer Hunter S. Thompson. It was during their dialogue when the blog host noted: "Dammit, John Wilbur."

John Wilbur , who recently died, was a Stanford graduate, a professional football player, an activist for pro football players, a UH special teams coach, an agent and, most of all, he was just John Wilbur — loud, opinionated, unfiltered and, dammit, usually right.

If he didn't like an article, he'd smirk: "Nice try."

If he wanted you to write an article, usually about a client (Jesse Sapolu, Rich Miano, etc.) or an upcoming rugby tournament, he would call you. Once. Twice. Five times. And while caller ID offered some resistance, he still managed to find his way into the office for a personal pitch.

If UH's special teams or the offensive line struggled, Wilbur would have his say — loud and unfiltered. Often, those critiques would be voiced during a practice.

Yes, for several years, Wilbur was a regular at Warrior practices. It wasn't easy for him. His knees were shot, so he often used a bicycle to pedal from his car to the practice field's sideline. In later years, he would hobble the distance, using the bicycle as his walker.

Beneath the gruff exterior was ... another level of gruffness. But beneath that, there was a man who fought for his beliefs and justice, who cared about UH football and that it be played the right way, and valued friendships and family.

And he did have many friends. During one practice, the conversation turned to Thompson. Wilbur asked if the blog host wanted to meet the famed writer. Uh, sure, as if this guy knew The Guy. But then two weeks later, the blog host was in a hotel room listening to how Thompson would like to improve the Honolulu Marathon.

Dammit, John Wilbur was right again.

He will be missed.

* * * * *

When you're an old fart, you get to know people for a long time. I've known Tony Tuioti for nearly 20 years. Our first conversation was by phone, when he confirmed he accepted a football scholarship from the Rainbow Warriors. It was fascinating to watch him develop into a very good defensive tackle and team leader.

Through the years, as his resume and family grew, Tuioti became a pretty good coach and talent evaluator. He recruited a 170-pound rugby/volleyball player named Joey Iosefa, and a professional Aussie rules football player named Scott Harding. He spent a year recruiting Mike Edwards. He had a knack for finding JC transfers with three seasons of eligibility remaining (Edwards, Tavita Woodard, Craig Cofer). Penitito Faalologo will be an impact fullback next year. Jerrol Garcia-Williams is a future NFL player.

Last night, Tuioti did not pout nor express anger about not being retained for the  2014 season. He was sad, of course, but mostly because "I'm going to miss coaching these young men."

Tuioti said it was "one of the best things" to coach the linebackers the past two years. "I learned a lot," he said. "It will help me become a better coach."

He added: "You know what UH means to me. I love the school. I love Hawaii. I'll always support the program."

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