The Damien grad also had to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test seven times in order to make it into the Academy.
The moral of Sullivan's story? Anything is possible if you work smart and know what it is going to take to achieve your dreams, and more importantly - how to get there. And for the 200-plus high school football players, their parents and coaches, the dreams today are for Hawaii's top prep prospects to earn a scholarship to pay their way to college. And Hawai'i Speed and Quickness may have just given them a big boost toward realizing their goal of playing football in college for free.
Sullivan runs the Pacific Islands Athletic Alliance. On their website (http://www.pacificathleticalliance.com/), their objective is spelled out in plain english; a 501(c)3 Non Profit Organization who is proud to have been assisting Island athletes secure funding for college since 2001. The PIAA has been educating Hawaiian families about college compliance, eligibility and financial aid.
But the PIAA is playing a smaller role on the UH-Manoa campus this day. This is the last day of the Hawaii Speed and Quickness' Big Man's Camp, so the island's top linemen take center stage. The Big Man's Camp is the last in a series of camps HSQ put together this summer to include over 1000 football players - something unprecedented in the history of Hawaii prep athletics.
The plan for this vision began after June Jones' inaugural season on the islands. "Nobody really knew how to deal with it or wanted to deal with doing it," Assistant Head Coach Rich Miano told Scout.com. "Since we took over last year and it was successful, it gets easier the more you do it."
Hawai'i Speed and Quickness (http://www.hawaiispeedandquickness.com/ was founded by Miano and UH Strength and Conditioning Coach Mel deLaura. Their mission? They are committed to improving athleticism and integrity of Hawaii's youth through all sports.
While Miano and deLaura were creating a wonderful foundation to serve the children of the islands through athletics, an obvious tie-in was missing; the ability to make this a win-win for the company and the school they worked for. It all came together in 2007 when Hawai'i Speed and Quickness took over the reigns and implemented a camp that tapped into the high schools and gave the community some awareness as to what was going on with their football program. By putting together a major upgrade of their online presence - complete with quick and easy internet registration for all their camps - they have brought HSQ front and center in the minds of Hawaii's young athletes, not to mention their families and coaches.
"We're trying to make things affordable for everyone in Hawai'i and we're trying to be as inclusive as we can," Miano said.
Camps like Just Win! on Maui and Education First paved the way for a UH camp like the HSQ one to be successful. "We encourage kids to go to all of them," Miano said. "But at the same time, the University of Hawai'i needed to have a camp."
Just based on the turnout, it appears these camps were a bombshell waiting to go off. It doesn't hurt that the Warriors went to a BCS bowl game for the first time in history and put UH footballl back on the national radar.
"Even people who don't like footballl were following it," Miano said of Hawaii's resurgence. And with it has come record highs in season ticket sales, as well as donations to Na Koa, the booster club that supports the UH football program.
"With the success of the program, we've been able to get the things we need," Miano added. "Most programs have recruiting coordinators and secretaries in the front of the office. The locker room is embarrassing. The field turf has been condemned. But now, we've had people step up for the new surface and the coaches' offices. It's not just going to be artist renderings anymore."
Greg McMackin, who replaced Jones after Jones decided to take a head coaching position at SMU, has taken that positive momentum and really run with it, according to Miano.
"Since he (McMackin) took the job, he's reached out to the community to make sure they know that they are very important to the support of the team," Miano said. "This is Hawai'i's team. He brought back green in the uniform, signed a big Under Armour deal and put Hawai'i on the front of the jerseys."
"USC and UCLA still have to battle the Lakers. There's nothing like that here," added Tony Tuioti, newly hired as UH's Director of Football Player Personnel. He will assist the coaching staff in the recruiting program and monitor the academic achievements of the student-athletes in the Warrior football program. "It gives the young kids growing up here a unique opportunity, unlike any other program."
And by also reaching out to get help from local well-known entities like the PIAA for guidance on the academic and compliance issues that face the high school prospects as they try to make it through the NCAA Clearinghouse, today's camps could be a shell of what they look like in the future. "The success of last year's camp, knowing we had a camp, means that we'll be doing things a lot earlier next year," Miano said. "We'll probably do a team camp, maybe some pads for the big guys...just expanding what we have."
"I'm just ecstatic about the number we've had and to see how much it's grown," said Tuitoti. "I think it's just the tip of the iceberg for what we can do in the Coach Mack era."
By having these camps, the UH football program is moving in a direction unparalleled in the history of the program. In the past, they took their legacy and their distance from major college football for granted. No more. Former UH greats like Jesse Sapolu, Dane Uperesa, Ma'a Tanuvasa and others have been waiting for the time when they could come back and give back to the program that gave them so much.
"I will always be a Warrior at heart," Tanuvasa told Scout.com Wednesday. He moved to Hawai'i from Samoa at a young age and went to high school in Mililani before matriculating to UH. "I've always wanted to come back to my roots and help any way I could. With Coach McMackin, a lot of the NFL scouts call. With those type of connections, it's a great deal to stay here, as opposed to having to go away to play."
And while the primary mission of serving the island youth is taken very seriously, the ability to evaluate and recruit talent at these camps is something the UH staff uses to their advantage. And while every college football program in America strives to keep their top talent within their boundaries, that hasn't always been the case in Hawai'i.
"There's some great talent that's gotten away, like Olin Kreutz to Washington and Chris Ma'afala to Utah," Tuioti said. "Coach McMackin has a vision to keep the top players home."
And while there was only one player to be offered after last year's camps - Damien's Christian Vasconcellos - the breadth and depth of McMackin's local recruiting efforts to date are already paying off big dividends. Corey Nielsen (Gahr, Calif.) and Billy Ray Stutzmann (St. Louis) were offered after the HSQ Skills camp, and all accepted. Cayman Shutter (Punahou) and Conrad Scheidt (Kamehameha-Kapalama) were also offered after the skills camp. Kimo Makaula (Punahou) committed when he found out he had been offered after the first day of the Big Man's camp. Benson Ma'afala (Damien) and Chauncey Makainai (Kailua) are two other 2009 island prospects that were offered scholarships after the camps.
The coaches are already delving into the 2010 talent pool, offering Taz Stevenson (Mililani), Micah Hatchie (Waialua) and V.J. Fehoko from Farrington after the camps.
"Coach McMackin has an eye for talent," said Tuioti.
"We have a lot of great talent here, and they've picked up on that," added Uperesa, a former Punahou grad that was a two-year starter for the Warriors before moving on to the NFL. "It's late in coming, but it's great for the college and the community.
"A lot of the things they are doing are things I learned in college. For the University of Hawai'i to bring back these camps, it's a great opportunity for them to learn from D1 coaches."