Had a fun time catching up with former Washington standout Jason Chorak who talked about Husky senior Hau’oli Kikaha.
As a junior in 1996, Chorak set a UW record with 14.5 sacks and was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and a second-team All-American. He finished with 25.5 sacks and was taken in the seventh round of the 1998 NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams. Chorak played one year in the NFL and one year in the now-defunct XFL.
Here’s the Q&A.
(Have you been watching Kikaha’s career?) “I watched a lot of games last year. This year I’ve watched a couple of games just because I’ve been traveling so during football season and being in Mexico for two weeks. But I went to the Georgia State game and watched him that game. I watched him play the Hawaii game and I watched him play the Eastern game. So I’ve watched him 3-4 times this season and last season I probably watched him every week.”
(From one pass rusher watching another, what do you see?) “I see a kid that has a lot of heart and wants to be great. I think that’s why he puts up the numbers that he does. He plays a little different position than I did. He drops a little more in pass coverage than I ever did. But he turns the edge good. He has that drive and that desire. He’s a taller guy like myself. He uses his speed as an advantage of his to get around the corner.”
(Going outside the box here, but what is the art of pass rushing?) “You’re right, it’s an art form. Pass rushing is so mental because if you can’t beat a man with speed, then you’re going to have a long, long day. Then once you beat the guy with speed, he’s going to kick out a little bit more and that’s when a lot of your strength comes in and then it’s a leverage game. It is an art that’s why the pass rushers today in the NFL are getting paid a lot of money because it’s a tough thing to do. It’s a mental game. Once you beat the man with speed, it opens up your whole repertoire of moves that you can go out there and throw at him know because he knows you have the speed to get the edge.”
(Then once you get past the offensive lineman, now you got to zero in on the quarterback and sometimes they’re stationary and sometimes they’re not.) “Yeah and in today’s game they’re not. It seems like in today’s college football the quarterback is probably the best athlete out there. If you look at the Pac-12 today, it wasn’t like the Pac-10 when I played when the quarterback was stationary, west-coast, drop back passer. We would have some quarterbacks that could get out of the pocket and scramble, but it seems like today that’s the norm for college quarterbacks.”
(Are there 1-2 things that Kikaha really does well?) “He has a lot of heart. I think that comes from his pride of being an islander. Most of the islanders that I know have the heart and the passion to go out there to play the game how the game is supposed to be played.”
(What does 14½ mean to you?) “Fourteen and half means, it’s just a number. I look back at my career and I see that record still out there and it just baffles me that it’s still there just because how much the game has changed. When I put that number out there at 14½ I played three teams that ran the wishbone. You see teams today and they’re throwing the ball 70 times a game. So the game has changed and records are meant to broken and I’m very shocked that that record is still there at the University of Washington just because teams throw the ball 60-70 times a game. The game isn’t played like it was back when we played. On first and second down they usually ran the ball and then third down they would throw the ball. Now they’re throwing the ball on first, second, third and fourth down.”
(If the record falls, how do you think you’ll feel?) “I’ll wake up in the morning just like I woke up this morning with a big smile on my face. With me, football was a great, great part of my life, but there’s so much more to life than playing a game. I’m just blessed that that’s record been there for as long as it has.”
(Take me back through that 1996 season. How did the sacks happen, in bunches or were they spread out?) “That year I had a sack every game, which I don’t think anybody has done in there career at the University of Washington. That is more what I’m proud of than the 14½ sacks because it showed you that I kept on going and going. It was kind of like my motor wouldn’t let me stop and it was more of a pride thing to me to get a sack every game. It didn’t matter if we played an Air Force that only threw the ball six times or Oregon State at the time they ran the speed option so they didn’t throw the ball much. But that was my goal was to get a sack a game. Now the BYU game, I sacked Sarkisian 3½ times that game so that did come in bunches that game. But if we look back at the season, you’re going to see a sack a game. Maybe two sacks one game and 3½ sacks that BYU game. A sack is very tough to get. That’s why the guys in the NFL get the big, big money to go out there and actually on a consistent basis go and put pressure on the quarterback.’
(Do you remember all of the quarterbacks you sacked?) “I remember the one sack that wasn’t a sack. It was a sack until Jake Plummer bent over and then he threw a 45-yard touchdown pass and we lost that game, which didn’t allow us to go to the Rose Bowl. That’s the sack that was almost a sack, but I remember the most in my career because if I didn’t go for the knockout blow and I just wrapped him up, we would have been in the Rose Bowl that year. That’s the sack that I always remember because it was the sack that I never got, which I should have. That’s the play that I’ll always remember in my career. If you just did the fundamentals right, we could have went to the Rose Bowl if I would have made that play.”
(For the young kids who didn’t see you play, what type of a player were you?) “I was a player that played with a lot of passion and a lot of heart. I looked at a football game from coach (Randy) Hart’s standpoint: It’s a fight in a phone booth and for 60 minutes you get to do things to people that you couldn’t do out in public or you’d be locked up in jail. I went out there for 60 minutes once that helmet was on and I was a possessed person. I wanted to go out there and do what I was – not paid to do – but on scholarship to do and that was to cause a lot of havoc for the opposing offense.”
(Who else was on that defense?) “Jerry Jensen, Tony Parrish, Lawyer Milloy, Sekou Wiggs, David Ritchie, Mel Miller, Jermaine Smith and Ink Aleaga. The list goes on and on. That’s when Husky football was Husky football and our defenses were dominant because we had fabulous, fabulous players.”
(Kikaha is on pace for 23 sack, which would challenge the Pac-12 single-season record. Is that just incredible?) “Like I told you before, the game has changed so much. You look at Washington State and they throw the ball 70 times a game. If you looked at 10 years ago how many times a team threw the ball compared to what the teams throw the ball today, it’s a complete difference. Another thing, when we played we didn’t have any Georgia State or Eastern Washington or Hawaii on our schedule. We played Ohio State, Miami and Notre Dame. Just top, top echelon teams in our bye week. So it doesn’t surprise me if there’s people who post 20-sack seasons just because how much the game has changed.”