Arizona football: Frosh TE Keoni Bush-Loo becomes hit at LB

2012-08-21T00:00:00Z 2014-10-10T11:27:24Z Arizona football: Frosh TE Keoni Bush-Loo becomes hit at LBRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 21, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Keoni Bush-Loo was running to a position drill last week when Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez cornered him and, with 12 words, changed everything.

"I'm tired of wasting your time," Rodriguez told him. "I want to see you play."

Rodriguez presented the freshman with a navy jersey and a position switch, from tight end to linebacker.

So far, Bush-Loo is making the most of his opportunity.

The 6-foot-4-inch, 229-pounder is already playing with the first-string defense in practices, and is a member - either as a first- or second-teamer - of all four special teams units.

The UA needs Bush-Loo to produce as it tries to cobble together a starting linebacker corps heading into its Sept. 1 season opener against Toledo. Projected starter Rob Hankins remains limited by the aftereffects of a concussion, and newcomers Dakota Conwell and C.J. Dozier have been slowed by injuries and inconsistency.

Here are three things you need to know about the Wildcats' newest linebacker:

1. He can hit. Bush-Loo's performances in the UA's daily "board" drill have become must-sees at practice. Hard-nosed and vicious - well, for a freshman - Bush-Loo seems to have a defender's mentality.

The "board" drill, a Rodriguez mainstay, pits two players against each other in a battle to see who can move the other off the line of scrimmage. Each one-on-one matchup is separated by tackling dummies. The drill's name stems from football lore, when coaches would put wooden two-by-fours between blockers' legs to keep their balance.

2. He calls Hawaii home. Bush-Loo sports a tattoo, barely visible under his jersey, of a tribal necklace. Each inky pendant contains the name of one of his six siblings. He grew up on Ewa Beach, on the island of Oahu's south coast. Bush-Loo and his six siblings love the water - he's an expert bodyboarder and budding surfer.

His football coaches "used to make us do runs and fireman walks up the sand. It was crazy," Bush-Loo said. "We made use of everything we could."

Bush-Loo attended Honolulu's prestigious Kamehameha Schools, which has historically been a haven for Native Hawaiian children.

His father, Kelly Loo, is the transportation dispatcher for the CBS television hit "Hawaii Five-O"; Keoni's aunties and cousins have appeared as extras in the show.

Keoni has, so far, avoided the spotlight.

"It was always, 'I've got school,' " he said. "My dad says to focus on school and focus on home, not work. I say OK."

3. He's wearing No. 3 now. Bush-Loo's switch to defense comes with a new jersey number.

NCAA rules prevent two players on the same side of the ball from wearing identical jerseys, and safety Brendan Murphy wore the same number - 40 - as Bush-Loo. The linebacker switched to No. 3 out of necessity, but has grown to like it.

"The good thing about changing your number is that you're starting over," Loo said. Since I'm a freshman, maybe now people will say, 'Oh, that No. 3 kid, he's kinda good.' …

"I like to make people happy. I try to go out there, run around, do my best, lay a hat (on someone) and do my best to get on the field."

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Follow the Arizona Daily Star