Keloni Kamalani and his Oregon team both head into the Rose Bowl with an opportunity to prove they have arrived.
Kamalani, a 2009 Kamehameha Schools Maui graduate, is a sophomore walk-on linebacker for the Ducks, ranked fifth by The Associated Press, who meet No. 10 Wisconsin on Monday in Pasadena.
He has gone from scout-teamer as a redshirt in 2009 to five tackles last season - with an appearance in the Bowl Championship Series title game - to a stalwart both on special teams and in the classroom this season for the Ducks.
KELONI KAMALANI, linebacker for the Ducks
Now comes a chance to show he's ready to contribute in a bigger way.
"That is exactly what it is," Kamalani said via phone on Friday. "This game will make a big statement for me and my years to come, so I want to get out there and (go all) out so I can prove to them that I can play on that field."
The Ducks are just the seventh team to qualify for three straight BCS games, but are looking to win for the first time in the streak. They lost 22-19 to Auburn last season and 26-17 to Ohio State in the 2010 Rose Bowl.
"It's very important," Kamalani said. "We have been to BCS games the last two years, but we haven't come out with the win, so this would mean a lot for us as a team."
Kamalani was named one of the "Elite 11" players on special teams after piling up 22 tackles - 19th on the team overall, and second among primarily special teams players. He was also one of 27 Ducks with a grade-point average of 3.0 or better honored at the team banquet four weeks ago.
"This game means a little bit more to me now that I'm actually on the field a little more," he said. "It would mean a lot for me to help my team out and come out with a win."
Like any bowl team, the Ducks have had to deal with distractions, though theirs have been unusual.
Senior offensive lineman Mark Asper, a 6-foot-7, 325-pound father of two, successfully performed the Heimlich maneuver on an Oregon fan who was choking during the annual "Beef Bowl," at which the Rose Bowl teams feast on prime rib at Lawry's Restaurant in Los Angeles.
"I put away about two pieces of beef, but those pieces were a little big for me," said the 5-11, 216-pound Kamalani. "I saw Asper do his thing, though. That was crazy."
Earlier, a photo of All-American running back LaMichael James appearing to be scared while on Disneyland's Space Mountain - possibly as a joke - was tweeted by teammate Kenjon Barner and went viral.
"All these things like Disneyland and the Beef Bowl, things like that, we kind of know what to expect," Kamalani said. "It wasn't more of that for this trip, it was for the team and to get the win."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org