Brian Derby's Offensive Linemen Camp: Honoring Our Best

Monday, September 18
Olin Kreutz of Hawaii among NFL's Best
Kreutz: Rock in a hard place

September 10, 2006

BY BRAD BIGGS Staff Reporter
Rock in a hard place

Hanging from a utility pole at the entry to George Perry's driveway is a sign that reads, ''No new members.'' Over the carport is another sign that implores guests at his outdoor gym to keep the place clean -- although the message on the sign itself isn't exactly clean.

This is the world Steve Morton entered when he visited the modest house in Kuliouou, a neighborhood on the eastern end of Oahu, in 1994 to recruit Olin Kreutz. ''I'm walking down the driveway, and I hear all this loud clanking,'' said Morton, then an assistant at Washington. ''They were moving equipment. I saw the signs, and I said, 'Whoa! This is gonna be interesting.'''

What he discovered was a den where tough men do tougher work and don't say much about it. Perry, Kreutz's grandfather, has kept the gym for decades. It's old-school, with 205-pound dumbbells and homemade weights. But with a power-clean platform, two benches and a squat rack, it's legit. Perry has trained a handful of pros to come off the island, including former New England Patriots tight end Russ Francis. The only rule is work hard, and once you enter, there is no leaving. Oh, yeah, don't show up without an invite, and you'd better clean up after yourself.

Perry, 72, rises at 4 every morning to work out. The man is a rock. All testify that he's still the baddest there. One day, less than a decade ago, Kreutz and his longtime best friend, Dominic Raiola, the Detroit Lions' center, were struggling with a 600-pound dead lift.

''That can't be that heavy -- let me try that,'' Perry said as he jerked the bar up as if nothing was on it.

Perry doesn't chat on the phone. He'll place the receiver down and grumble. But enough guests have been there to describe an atmosphere where you are pushed to the edge. Cal Lee, Kreutz's St. Louis High coach, didn't mind if players lifted there instead of at school. He knew the workout they were getting.

''You don't go there to look at yourself in the mirror or you'll get your butt kicked,'' said Brian Derby, a former Hawaii coach who runs lineman clinics on the island and around the world. ''If you want to be a pretty boy, put on your Speedo and go to the beach.

''Society is missing what George instills. It's about discipline. You respect yourself because you're there to be the best you can. He teaches you to be a responsible, respectful person, but to not take [junk] from anyone and be one tough son of a [gun].''

Earlier in their careers, Kreutz and Raiola worked out twice a day, sleeping in between, and they'd run in a stream bed behind Perry's house.

''It's a crazy environment because it's so intense,'' Raiola said. ''But after a while, you don't know any better. That gym has gotten me where I am.''

When Kreutz returned home from school once, bothered by a neck stinger, his family jumped him.

''You wimp!'' his uncle, Bruce Perry, chided him. ''What is wrong with you?''

They told him to train harder, and Derby says he never has seen an athlete work like Kreutz, who has been voted to the last five Pro Bowls. Jay Hilgenberg (seven) is the only other center in Bears history to be named to more.

If Kreutz continues his level of dominance -- and stays healthy -- he could become the first ever to play his final high school (1994 Oahu Prep Bowl), college (1997 Aloha Bowl) and pro game at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. The thought moves Kreutz, who is rarely given to emotion if it's not laughter. It would mean a lot for him to finish where he started.

• • •

The son of a longshoreman and a teacher, Kreutz has heard the story countless times. His mother, Lora Perry, loves telling it. He was a 3-year-old toddler at Kilohana Preschool in Niu Valley, and the children were asked to draw a picture of what they wanted to be when they grew up. He portrayed himself holding a football.

''I don't know if that's true,'' Kreutz said. ''I can't remember.''

Now, he has his own boys with their own dreams and their own footballs. Joshua, 3, threw a fit when he couldn't go with his mother, Wendi, to the Bears' final home preseason game. He loves the Soldier Field experience and watching his father.

''He was carrying a ball the other day, and he said, 'Mommy bought me this football,''' Kreutz said. ''I said, 'No, Daddy bought you that.' He said, 'Daddy can't buy me anything -- you're always tired.'

''I laughed and asked him, 'Why do you think I'm always tired?'''

Such is the life of a nine-year veteran with kids chasing him around the house. He has missed one game the last five seasons, because of an appendectomy, and holds the club's longest active consecutive-games-started streak (54). Kreutz rarely takes a practice off, although the last two years he has gotten about one a week off in the second half of the season. It's the cumulative effect of tens of thousands of snaps, partial tears of the medial collateral ligament in each knee, an elbow surgery and the banging and grinding that goes with the job.

Joining Joshua and James, 2, next month will be his first daughter. The man ranked the second-most-feared player in the NFL last week by Sports Illustrated (the only offensive lineman in the top 10) doesn't know what to expect.

''The closest I've ever been to having a little girl in my house is Dominic's daughter came to stay with us,'' he said. ''All I know is she got whatever she wanted. People say it makes you different. I'm sure they're right. I don't know. I'll find out.''

Families make it harder for Kreutz and Raiola to spend as much time together in the offseason as they once did. Growing up around the corner from each other at the base of a mountain, they'd disappear into mischief all day long, with younger Donovan Raiola -- a rookie just cut by the St. Louis Rams -- tagging along.

Kreutz spends the first half of the offseason in Hawaii at a modest house he purchased with money from his rookie contract. He'll go to Perry's gym and work out at his high school, where young players are sometimes around.

''Olin gives kids on the island hope,'' Derby said. ''Because most of them are saying, 'They'll never see us, we're not very good.' Olin is proof that they're not different than kids from anywhere else.''

Kreutz and Raiola play golf together often. Kreutz usually takes money from his buddy. In turn, he is accused of taking lessons.

''Nothing has changed but the date and our ages,'' Raiola said. ''Olin is full speed, pedal to the metal, all day, every day.''

• • •

When Kreutz arrived at Washington in 1995, all he wanted to do was leave. He admits ''hating it,'' and Morton said if there was a bridge connecting Seattle to Oahu, Kreutz would have walked it. He says the coaches played him as a true freshman because they didn't want him to leave. Part of an agreement he had with his mother was she would come to every game. It made for long weekends, but she didn't miss one in three years.

Off the field, things were tumultuous. As Kreutz likes to explain, people don't bug you in Hawaii -- they don't want to know your business, and they leave you to yourself. That wasn't the case when Kreutz got to school. Find someone who knew him there, and you'd learn crazy tales of a teenager set loose an ocean away from a home.

''He was rough, but part of that made him a great football player,'' Brock Huard, his quarterback, said. ''Just the nature of his upbringing and the quarrels and brouhahas that he got into, he didn't back down from anybody, and he commanded absolute respect. He didn't talk about any of it -- he proved it.''

Kreutz clicked with a group of players from Hawaii. The Huskies tapped a recruiting pipeline more than a decade before he arrived, forged by head coach Jim Lambright, then an assistant under Don James. Ink Aleaga, the Kesi brothers (Petrocelli and Patrick) and Ikaika Malloe formed a tight-knit group that made them all brothers to this day. When Kreutz was booted off the team temporarily for busting teammate Sekou Wiggs' jaw in a locker-room altercation, it was this group that pulled him through. When a reporter started calling around asking questions, the group tipped off Kreutz.

''He was so much more mature than the normal college freshman,'' said Aleaga, now an academic adviser for the Huskies' program. ''The way he got along with upperclassmen, those guys gave him the same respect for another senior or junior. He brought a new demeanor to the team as a freshman. Everybody saw that.''

But beyond the tenacity and the thanks Aleaga has for his friend -- ''Olin saved my butt a few times, you know''-- is a deep respect.

''He's very, very loyal,'' Aleaga said. ''That's the way he was brought up, and that's the way he lives. He cares more about his friends and family than himself.''

• • •

Morton, now at San Jose State, still keeps in touch. He said that Kreutz ''made hard work fun.'' Never was work harder than when Washington had a showdown at USC in 1996, when Kreutz was a sophomore. Hyping the meeting, the Sporting News spent a week with the Huskies' offensive line and the Trojans' defensive line, led by the late Darrell Russell, an All-American.

On the Huskies' first play, an inside zone run to Corey Dillon, Kreutz went the wrong way, sabotaging the play in a train wreck of humanity that knocked Russell clear over guard Benji Olson. He shook Russell on the ground before getting up with the help of a knee in Russell's chest and a hand on his throat. Morton blew his stack on the sideline when the series ended, demanding to know what happened.

''He got that grin,'' Morton said. ''A great big grin on his face. I bet you know that grin: 'Coach, I had to show him who is tough.'''

He had a more serious look when he joined the Bears, battling Casey Wiegmann for the starting job in 1999, his second season. Offensive line coach Bob Wylie was new and didn't know how to handle the competition. He figured because Wiegmann had more experience, he'd let him start the first preseason game. He announced his decision with just the two of them in the meeting room. Kreutz left, slamming the door so hard the handle blasted a hole in the wall.

''I looked at Casey and said, 'I guess he wants to play,''' Wylie said. ''Olin is the perfect guy for that position because he plays like he's defending the island all the time.''

• • •

Now a veteran, Terrence Metcalf was about to get his first chance to start in 2003 when an injury sidelined right guard Chris Villarrial.

''I just don't want to let Olin down,'' Metcalf said. ''You know what I mean?''

He wasn't worried about himself, the coaches or the fans. He didn't want to disappoint Kreutz.

Teammates might not have been disappointed, but they were at least let down when a drunken fight at the FBI shooting range in North Chicago with right tackle Fred Miller left Kreutz with a gash on his head and Miller a broken jaw last fall. Miller, who came at Kreutz first, missed a game for the first time in seven years. Both players were fined $50,000, and Kreutz was ordered to undergo an anger-management course, the third time he has been through one.

''Deservedly so,'' Kreutz said when asked if the incident changed perceptions of him. ''I don't know what perceptions people had about me before. I'm not sure they were all good. The way people perceive you, the way you really are, the way you think you are, the way people see you, it's all different. It's not something I worry about. I don't say that I don't give a damn what people think about me. Obviously, everybody cares a little bit, but there's nothing I can do about it.

''I care about the team. I care about how I do my job. I care about doing things the right way when I play football. If you're outside the O-line room, I wouldn't say I'm terribly worried about you liking me. The O-line, I care if they like me or not. We all have to get along.''

For years, Kreutz resisted efforts to be profiled. He does not want to be singled out. It's one of the reasons he has been uncomfortable with Pro Bowl accolades in years when the team has struggled.

''You have to stay within your line and always be presented as a group, not as a person,'' he said. ''I truly believe that. Some positions, some guys are just unbelievably good, and they can be singled out. On an O-line, nobody is that good.''

Kreutz has one year remaining on the six-year, $22.5 million deal he received in 2002 that included a record $7 million signing bonus for his position. A family friend said he took the deal, more than $3 million less than the Miami Dolphins offered, because he thought loyalty was one thing that was missing in the league. He'd like to stay here longer.

''I don't know if I would have enjoyed myself as much in Miami,'' Kreutz said. ''I might have. I knew I was going to enjoy myself here. That meant a lot.''

One former Bears coach summed up Kreutz by saying, ''he doesn't give a [damn] what anyone thinks about him, he does give a [damn] about how he does his job.'' He will carry the off-field marks against him for the remainder of his career. When you find those that know him best, you learn he's not the menacing figure he is on the field, such as when he stared across at Minnesota Vikings nose tackle Pat Williams and said, ''You got a problem with me?'' That exchange happened in the New Year's Day game after Williams trashed Kreutz in the Minneapolis press last fall.

''He had a whole bunch to say, and then he had nothing to say on the field,'' Kreutz said. ''You ask me about Pat, I'll tell you how good he is. The NFL is a hard place to make it. I don't disrespect anybody who plays in it.''

Maybe that's because he spent a lifetime working to get where he is. He's reminded of the story of the picture he drew in preschool.

''I'm sure it's true,'' Kreutz said, cracking a slow, slight grin. ''And I'm glad it came true.''

Derby camper Whitley Fehoko: Look Out San Diego State
Saturday, April 15
Derby campers excel into College again in 2005-2006
Here are the Derby campers from 2005-2006 Season that have accepted scholarships so far. These Players attended the Derby Camp in 2005 in Hawaii. They worked hard throughout the off season and in school and attended the Clinic in Oahu! Guys we are super proud of you and wish you all the best in your college career and life!

Micah Kia-UCLA

Ryan Pohl-Oregon State

Whitley Fehoko-San Diego State

Esrom Pascual-Mississippi Valley State

Kody Kekipi-St. Francis(PA.)

Monday, March 6
Travis Claridge Dies chasing his dream
A love of football drove Claridge's life
The former Fort Vancouver prep star died recently while still pursuing ...

Saturday, April 15
Derby Players in College from 2004 Camps
Present and Past Derby camp athletes receive Collegiate Offers in 2005

Coach Derby is pleased to celebrate in the Success of 9 outstanding athletes from Hawaii that are past and present Campers at the Brian Derby Offensive Linemen Camp in Oahu.  This is the ultimate Goal of helping these young athletes get better and is the ultimate reward for Brian.  Good luck Gentlemen... Coach Derby and all of us in the Organization are so very very proud of you! 
2005 D-1 and Collegiate Scholarship Players Are:

1.) Tyler Williams, 6-2, 285 Center, Kamehameha Schools, Hawaii-UTAH

2.) Kainoa Lacount, 6-7, 305 Guard/Tackle, Kailua High School, Hawaii-OREGON STATE BEAVERS

3.) Trask Iosefa, 6-1, 285 Center, Punahou School, Hawaii-SAN DIEGO STATE

4.) Aaron Kia, 6-4, 275 Guard/Tackle, Mililani High School, Hawaii-UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII 

5.) Pat So'oalo, 6-5, 300 Guard/Tackle, Kailua High School, Hawaii/Fresno City College-OREGON DUCKS

6.) Raphael Ieru, 6-3, 300 Guard, Mckinley High School, Hawaii-UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII

7.) Ikaika Aken-Moleta 6-3, 310 Guard, Kapolei High School, Hawaii-SAN DIEGO STATE    

8:)  Garyk Ontai-Damien High School,   COLORADO SCHOOL OF MINES
9.)  Joshua Omura-Iolani High Scool, LAMBUTH UNIVERSITY


Go get 'em fellahs and have great success!