Last hurrah for Pu‘u-Robinson
This is it for Jordan Pu’u-Robinson.
The University of Hawaii tight end is embarking on the final season of a long and winding college football odyssey.
Pu’u-Robinson, a 2009 Baldwin High School graduate, enters a rare sixth season of eligibility after spending the first three years of his career as a defensive lineman at Washington State.
An injury list that covers his body from finger tip to leg has limited him to just four games in the past two seasons and 14 overall.
“I feel good, I’m in perfect health right now, I’m probably in the best shape I have been in in my career, so it’s looking real good right now,” he said.
Pu’u-Robinson redshirted as a true freshman in 2009. He missed the entire 2010 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, then recorded nine tackles in 10 games in 2011 for the Cougars before transferring to UH for the 2012 season due to family reasons.
After winning an appeal to the NCAA to be immediately eligible for the Warriors, he was limited to two games in 2012 with a broken hand and finger. He had three tackles, including two in his lone start against San Diego State.
Last season, after switching to tight end Pu’u-Robinson played in just two games. He had one start and two catches for 19 yards after a shoulder separation, torn meniscus and torn medial collateral ligament.
Pu’u-Robinson was granted this extra season early last year after winning his second NCAA appeal.
The numbers add up to 20 agonizing games spent on the sidelines while the Warriors were piling up a 4-20 record. He was the starter at tight end this spring.
“This spring I got a lot of quality reps because one of our tight ends was down,” Pu’u-Robinson said. “I did pretty well. I got hurt, but it was just a minor injury. I just missed a few practices, but I’m back to full health now. I’m excited. I feel like I have finally filled in to the position and I feel comfortable there.”
Pu’u-Robinson watched his old friends at Washington State qualify for the New Mexico Bowl last year, a season’s reward that has never happened for him.
“A couple weeks ago, it kind of hit me,” he said. “This is my last spring, my last summer workouts, this will be the last season. Hopefully – I haven’t had a winning season yet in my career – it would be really nice to have a winning season and go to a bowl game.”
It is a singular focus for Pu’u-Robinson, who is one class away from a bachelor’s degree in communication.
“All I want to do is go to a bowl game, that is all I want,” he said. “That’s the goal of the team, that’s my goal, just win some games. I grew up in the time when Hawaii was one of the best teams in the nation. There’s nothing more special than that, to bring the state together. The fans deserve it, Hawaii deserves it – getting back to that winning status would be great.”
Pu’u-Robinson said the battle for the starting tight end spot will enter fall camp. He has shed 15 pounds from last season and now checks in at 245 pounds and stands 6-foot-4.
“I don’t know if there is any set positions, but I think that I’m going to play regardless,” he said. “I think I am going to win my job in fall camp.”
Pu’u-Robinson had more in mind when he left Wailuku for the Pac-12 Conference in 2009 – scout.com had him rated No. 54 on the Northwest Hot 100 list and No. 14 among tight ends in the West.
“At times, it does get tough when the injuries (happen),” he said. “Probably more mentally than physically. It’s tough dealing with – you feel like you let your team down, you feel like you let your family down.”
College football has had its rewards as well.
“I’ve had probably the best five or six years of my life,” he said. “I have the best of friends, guys who will stand behind me at my wedding. I feel the camaraderie of the sport. I have started on both sides of the ball, I just have never won too many games. That’s truly my main goal.”
Pu’u-Robinson is one of three Baldwin graduates on the football roster on the UH athletics website, along with redshirt freshman running back Keelan Ewaliko and walk-on freshman linebacker Teva Eldridge.
“Keelan probably gained 20, 30 pounds in the offseason,” Pu’u-Robinson said. “He has been working really hard. Every time you look at him he has a plate lunch or shaker bottle right next to him. You are going to hear his name a lot in the coming years, he is a special player. I didn’t play with Teva (at Baldwin), but it’s nice to have all those Bears on the team.”
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org