Forty-five pounds and nearly five years removed from Maui, Mana Rosa has seemingly lived a lifetime in Corvallis, Ore.
Rosa, a starting defensive tackle for Oregon State, will have one of the more exhilarating moments of his college career when the University of Hawaii football team visits Reser Stadium on Saturday.
"I have been waiting for this moment to show what I can do for the program," Rosa said Wednesday.
Oregon State’s Mana Rosa (93), shown during last week’s loss to Eastern Washington, is one of the Beavers’ five players from Hawaii
OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY photo
Rosa redshirted his first season out of Baldwin High School after being voted the Maui Interscholastic League Defensive Player of the Year as a senior.
A torn labrum cost him his freshman season, and he recorded three tackles in seven games as a sophomore. Rosa played in 11 games last season, but missed the Alamo Bowl while he was suspended from the team after an arrest stemming from an incident also involving two teammates at a Corvallis bar.
The 6-foot-3, 285-pounder is in the program's good graces again.
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"It is definitely something I'm proud of - finally, actually getting to play the game I love," he said.
Rosa could line up across from former Baldwin teammate Jordan Pu'u-Robinson, a tight end for UH.
"It is something that really excites guys from Hawaii, playing your home college, family's coming up - it's going to be a fun game," said Rosa, whose parents, Tiare and Kenneth Rosa, will be in the stands. "Jordan and I might be seeing each other on the gridiron and going at it."
Another teammate from the 2008 MIL champion Bears, John Lotulelei, is a rookie linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks.
"I'm super excited for him. That's big-time, being from Maui to get to the NFL. He is a good friend, he worked hard and he deserves it," Rosa said.
Rosa says he thinks about playing in the league as well.
"Oh yeah, it's always on my mind," he said. "That's been my dream since I was young and I'm still pursuing it."
Rosa is one of five Beavers from Hawaii, and Oregon State's defensive line coach is former UH star Joe Seumalo.
"Not too many teams get that family type of feel and it is great being around coach," Rosa said. "He is always bringing up new songs from Hawaii that maybe none of us have heard - listening to music in meeting rooms to keep us up so no one falls asleep. All the guys from Hawaii, we all have something in common, so it's a great deal."
Seumalo also feels the Aloha State connection.
"I'm born and raised 808, he's born and raised 808," he said. "A lot of these kids, I feel like I'm obligated, I'm responsible for these guys. If you're from Hawaii, that's a special place. If you're from Hawaii, you must be special."
The Beavers are coming off a 49-46 loss to Eastern Washington that cost them their No. 25 ranking in The Associated Press poll.
"It is definitely driving us," Rosa said. "It is something that we learned from, something that we have to grow from."
Rosa had a career-high six tackles against the Eagles, and blocked an extra point.
"Effort-wise and production and execution, he played a great game," Seumalo said.
Rosa said he's changed his lifestyle following December's arrest.
"That was a mistake. I learned from it, though," he said. "It was definitely something that really hurt, couldn't go to a bowl game. Afterwards I was off the team and I got reinstated - I'm just grateful that I have an opportunity to play again.
"I left that in the past. Now I stay away from any type of scene like that. I just stay home and watch TV."
Rosa is on track to accept his psychology degree in June.
"That's big, that's the whole deal why I came up here," he said. "That is one of my main goals, it is going to be big for my future."
* Robert Collias is at rcollias @mauinews.com