QB is making a run at redemption

Navy Football

December 03, 2008|By Don Markus | Don Markus,don.markus@baltsun.com

It's not that things always went perfectly for Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada during his first three seasons playing football at Navy.

During spring practice when Kaheaku-Enhada was a sophomore, then-Navy coach Paul Johnson gave him a week to prove he could play quarterback in the same triple-option offense he had run in high school in Hawaii.

In two seasons as a starter, Kaheaku-Enhada played two of his worst games against Army.

But nothing prepared Kaheaku-Enhada for what he encountered this season after tearing his hamstring during an August scrimmage and struggling to get back onto the field consistently since.

"It's definitely a growing experience," he said. "In life, you're going to hit adversity, and you've just got to work through it. I had to work back from being really low. You go from really low to really high, and this year I was really low."

Kaheaku-Enhada said the lowest point came when he returned for a second time after reinjuring the hamstring against Wake Forest.

It didn't take long against Temple for Kaheaku-Enhada to see how ineffective the injury had left him.

"Running the ball a little bit, and just realizing that you're not the same person you were before," said Kaheaku-Enhada, who came out in the third quarter. "Feeling myself running the way I did put things into perspective."

Which is why Saturday's game against Army at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia is so important to Kaheaku-Enhada, who is expected to play for the first time in more than a month and could start.

"It means a lot to me; it's an opportunity I have to take," he said. "The fact that I get to play against Army again. I have two games left. Hopefully I'll make it out of this game, just make it to it for that matter. I'll be grateful for it, just the opportunity to play."

It will also be a chance for improvement. In two starts against Army, both victories, Kaheaku-Enhada has been held in check, completing three of 11 passes for 18 yards and rushing 29 times for 91 yards, including 14 carries for 27 yards a year ago.

"I was terrible," Kaheaku-Enhada said.

Still, even with this season's disappointment, Kaheaku-Enhada understands how much he has accomplished. He will finish his career with his name all over the Navy record book, including possibly as the school's career leader in yards per play, where he entered the season a fraction ahead of Lamar Owens.

"I think I reached expectations, coming out of high school, I wanted to be a star," Kaheaku-Enhada said. "Freshman year really put things in perspective. You sit back and see that everybody in college is just as good or better than you. At this point in my career, I've done a lot. I've come a long way."

Said Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo, who as a fellow Hawaiian was instrumental in recruiting Kaheaku-Enhada: "He's helped turn some of our program around. He's been part of us winning a lot of games. In the era since Coach Johnson came, I don't think anyone has started more games [at quarterback]."

It took a challenge from his former coach to set his career path as a Navy quarterback.

"Coach Johnson said, 'You've got one week to prove yourself,' " Kaheaku-Enhada recalled. "I stuck around for a week and a day. I thought maybe this thing is going to work out. Things started to break a little for me at quarterback. ... I was surprised he kept me there through the spring."

By the start of his senior year, Kaheaku-Enhada was being mentioned among the candidates for the Davey O'Brien Award given annually to the nation's top college quarterback. Less than two weeks later, his candidacy was over when he tore his hamstring.

After the team started the season 1-1, Kaheaku-Enhada came back against Duke on Sept. 13.

"I wasn't in shape at Duke. My legs got tired out there, and I couldn't move them anymore," said Kaheaku-Enhada, whose toughness was questioned when he took himself out at halftime of the Midshipmen's 41-31 loss.

He understands now how important it is for him to come back again, this week, against Army.

"I don't think it's as important to me as it is to the team," he said. "I think I do give the team a chance. If I don't work my hardest and give the team my all, I'm nothing for the team. And that's what we are. We're brothers. That's what it comes down to. You've got the man next to you who's going to be sitting in that hole with you, shooting a gun. That's all we got."

NAVY (7-4) VS. ARMY (3-8)

Saturday, noon, Philadelphia

TV: Chs. 13, 9

Radio: 1090 AM

Line: Navy

by 10 1/2

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