Sean Tesoro and Jordan Pu'u Robinson missed each other by a season at Baldwin High School, but they will share a bond as they battle helmet to helmet in Pullman, Wash., on Saturday.
Tesoro, the starting left guard for the University of Nevada Las Vegas, and Pu'u Robinson, a reserve defensive end for Washington State, both suffered severe leg injuries that cost them most or all of a season.
They meet Saturday for a game between two programs that each won just twice last season.
Sean Tesoro suffered a broken right fibula and dislocated and tore all of the ligaments in his ankle during UNLV’s game against Oregon State in 2009. The Baldwin High School graduate has worked his way to being the Rebels’ starting left guard.
University of Nevada Las Vegas photo
That both are slated to see significant playing time - and quite possibly will run into each other - are both stories in themselves.
Tesoro graduated from Baldwin in 2008, redshirted his first season at UNLV, and was a starter for the first two games of his freshman year. In that second game against Oregon State - one week before the Rebels were set to play Hawaii - Tesoro suffered a broken right fibula and dislocated and tore all of the ligaments in his ankle.
As he worked to get back, missing spring drills when a new coaching staff had been put in place, he dropped off the radar screen. As a sophomore, he appeared in only four games and started to ponder his future in Las Vegas.
"It is very tough - you actually just have got to stay positive through the rehab, work hard at coming back stronger," Tesoro said. "Hard work, putting the work in in the weight room and just showing them that I want to play, I want to be here."
He delivered a statement to the new staff.
"The message got through, yes sir," Tesoro said.
Former Baldwin coach Jimmy Morimoto, the Rebels' assistant recruiting coordinator, has been there the entire time for Tesoro.
"He definitely did help a lot, he was always there helping me, motivating me, pushing me," said Tesoro, a human services major who wants to be a school counselor.
Now, there is no question he is where he belongs.
"I am glad everything worked out here," Tesoro said. "I just used a positive attitude and hard work and eventually the hard work paid off."
Baldwin graduates Troy Aoki, a fullback-long snapper, and linebacker John Lotulelei, and Kamehameha Maui graduate Keahi Raikes, a defensive back, are juniors on the UNLV team.
"We can talk pidgin to each other and know what we are saying," Tesoro said. "All the Maui boys want to do good. I am going to go up to (Pu'u Robinson) and say 'Good luck' before the game."
According to his UNLV profile, Tesoro was granted a medical redshirt for his shortened freshman season and is listed as a sophomore in his fourth year with the program.
Pu'u Robinson knows the feeling of missing a season.
He transferred from Kamehameha Maui to Baldwin for his senior year in 2008 and redshirted as a freshman in 2009 at WSU. He tore his anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in a knee in fall camp in 2010 and missed the entire season, spring drills and all but one practice of fall camp last month.
Still, he appeared for 10 plays in last week's 61-24 win over Idaho State - the plan is to up his playing time about 10 plays each week until he reaches the 40-play mark.
"I have waited a long time to get on the field, so, yeah, it felt really good," Pu'u Robinson said. "The knee wasn't doing too well, so my first live rep was last Saturday. I wasn't so worried about the knee, just about me playing football. That was my first snap since the ACL, so I was a little nervous, but it felt good, it felt really good."
Pu'u Robinson said that in the process of watching film from the Rebels' 51-17 loss at then-No. 11 Wisconsin last week, a familiar name came up.
"We actually might run into each other - (Tesoro) pulls toward my side a lot," said Pu'u Robinson, who is majoring in sports management. "He pulled five to 10 times to my side, so we might meet each other."
Tesoro looks forward to the chance to meet a fellow former Bear as well.
"I am not going to take any plays off and I expect the same from him," Tesoro said.
Next week in Las Vegas, Tesoro will finally get to play Hawaii, who beat UNLV 59-21 at Aloha Stadium in last season's regular-season finale.
"I am not looking past WSU - all my concentration's on them," he said. "I know I will be very excited to play (Hawaii). They got on us last year so it will be time to get them a little revenge."
Baldwin has seven graduates playing Division I football this season and two of them will have prominent roles Saturday in the Palouse.
"It is one of a kind - we know that we can play on the state level against anyone," Tesoro said of the Bears. "I actually want to thank them for getting me to where I am today."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org