Postcard from Hawaii: Hurricanes come out in force

KAPOLEI, Hawaii -- With its sprawling campus, it looks more like a small college, tucked in a middle- to upper-class neighborhood that's surrounded by tract housing, orchid gardens and cleanly swept streets.

But it's a high school, Kapolei High School, a new facility that opened its doors in 2000. It currently serves more than 2,300 students on 60 acres of land that once contained only sugar cane fields.

It's an atypical high school, with very typical students.

"These kids are just like any kids in America," said John Keogh, a business and Spanish teacher at the school. "Hawaii is very unique in that, just look at these kids walking by. You've got Filipinos, you've got Vietnamese, Japanese, American Samoan.

"But we don't have a pro team here. UH (University of Hawaii) is our team."

This week, Hawaiians have two pro teams again. The AFC and the NFC, its members here preparing for the Pro Bowl. And they're practicing literally in the backyard of the high school, on the practice field that houses the football team that took out defending state champion Kahuku in the 2007 playoffs. It was a victory folks around these parts still refer to as the day they "Shocked the World."

The Hurricanes are getting treated this week by the NFL, which moved its three days of Pro Bowl practice from a field in Ko Olina adjacent to the players' hotel to Kapolei High.

"We got word about a month ago that they would be playing here," said Keogh, a Buffalo, N.Y., transplant. "We loved the idea, we jumped on the opportunity. To be by world-class athletes, we thought, 'Let's do it.' These guys are the best at what they do, so it's been exciting for our kids."

Teachers volunteered to bring their students to 20-minute sessions. Some stood waving team flags, others wore their NFL gear. The most popular jersey was of Seahawks inside linebacker Lofa Tatupu, making his second Pro Bowl appearance. Tatupu is the son of former Patriots fullback Mosi Tatupu, a standout player at Punahou School in Honolulu where he set several Hawaii state rushing records.

"I was pretty excited that they were going to be playing on our football field," said Kyle Kettner, a senior at Kapolei High who was one of those in attendance at Tuesday's AFC session where he got to see his two favorite players, Broncos safety John Lynch and cornerback Champ Bailey.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. A lot of people in Hawaii have never been to an NFL game, so for the Pro Bowl to come here every year is pretty big."

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