By Rodney S. Yap
Hawaii’s quarterback coaching guru Vince Passas conducted a free two-hour “Quarterback / Receiver Clinic” for a dozen quarterbacks and more than 30 receivers Saturday at War Memorial Stadium.
Passas, 56, is a real estate broker by trade and a 1974 Saint Louis graduate who has served as an assistant coach for 39 years at the school and has been on the sidelines for all 16 state and Prep Bowl championships.
“I like working with kids and doing this is my way of giving back,” said Passas, who believes in paying it forward with random acts of kindness and encouraged the Valley Isle players to experience it by cheering up person or helping around the house without being told. “I promise you it will come back to you tenfold. I don’t know how it happens, but it does.”
The reward far outweighs the effort it takes to be nice to others or being a good teammate, Passas told the group after working them on the proper mechanics of throwing the ball on the run.
The long-time coach has worked with the best quarterbacks in the state, from the most recent in Marcus Mariota (Oregon) to the older ones now college coaches in Timmy Chang (SMU) and Jason Gesser (Idaho).
Former Baldwin offensive coordinator Dave Carino played football and baseball at Saint Louis for Passas. Since the Crusaders baseball team was here for the Baldwin baseball tournament, Passas and Carino decided on a Neighbor Island version of the weekly “Get Better” camps Passas puts on every Sunday for two hours (10 a.m. to noon) at Saint Louis School.
All interested quarterbacks grades 7-11 were eligible to attend and each were asked to bring at least one wide receiver. Coaches were also welcome and a handful were in attendance.
“We had a nice group of kids show up,” said Carino. “I want to thank the players and coaches who came and took advantage of this opportunity.”
“He’s coached them all, from Coach Darnell (Arceneaux) to Jason Gesser,” Mariota said in a Honolulu Star Advertiser story two years ago. “He’s left his mark on this hill.”
The Oregon quarterback capped the Ducks’ 2012 season with a 35-17 victory over Kansas State in the 2013 Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3, equaled the best season ranking in school history by being named No. 2 in both the Associated Press and USA Today (coaches) final top 25 polls behind BCS national champion Alabama.
“Coach Vinny had me shorten things,” said the 6-foot-4 Mariota before leaving Saint Louis for Eugene, Ore. “My stride, my release. I got real smooth with his help. And reading defenses, three-step drop. A lot on footwork. All that good stuff.”
It was Passas who helped University of Hawaii quarterback Jeremy Higgins break into the starting lineup last year.
In spring training and training camp, the knock on Higgins was that his passes had the right intent but lacked velocity. The southpaw corrected that issue by working with Passas, his former coach.
“Coach Vinny has coached me since I was in sixth grade,” Higgins told Stephen Tsai of the Star Advertiser. “Every time I feel like I’m losing it, I go back to him.”
Passas has developed many of the state’s best high school quarterbacks. Below is a list of players he’s coached:
2010 — Marcus Mariota
2008-09 — Jeremy Higgins
2006-07 — Micah Mamiya
2005 — Cameron Higgins (also Jeremiah Masoli)
2004 — Stanley Nihipali
2003 — Kealii Perbera
2001-02 — Bobby George
2000 — Kelika Higa
1998-99 — Timmy Chang
1996-97 — Jason Gesser
1994-95 — Darnell Arceneaux
1993 — Joe Correia
1991-92 — Joel Lane
1989-90 — John Hao
1988 — Mike Nua
1982 — Jared Wong
1980-81 — Cliff Kaneiakala
1979 — Edmund Kakalia
1978 — Chris Whaley
1977 — Gary Keahohou