Kreutz Learns To Leave His Ferocity On Football Field

He made the call seven or eight times. Each time he asked his mother to please bring him home.

Olin Kreutz wanted out of Seattle. He wanted to be back in Hawaii.

If it had been up to him, this season at Washington, the 9-2 record, first team all-Pac-10, a football career careening toward the riches of the NFL, would never have happened.

"It just seemed like the time to go home," Kreutz said. "I hated watching him go through what he had to go through. I didn't mean to hurt him."

It tore at the team last spring, threatening to unravel Jim Lambright's attempt to push the Huskies back on the national stage.

They fought briefly on the field. Then, in the locker room, Kreutz punched Sekou Wiggs in the face, breaking his jaw in two places.

Kreutz, who played as a true freshman on the offensive line, was suspended indefinitely from the team. Wiggs, who started on the defensive line, was unable to eat solid foods. Kreutz didn't know if Lambright would let him play again; Wiggs didn't know if he'd be able to play again.

Kreutz thought constantly about going home. Wiggs thought about suing. The course of Husky football changed because neither did.

Reinstated by Lambright, Kreutz was dominating this season. He was the hub of the offense, a Husky center in the mold of Ray Mansfield, Ray Pinney, Blair Bush, Ed Cunningham and Bern Brostek. He bowled people over, running point for Corey Dillon.

He was named player of the game in the Apple Cup victory over Washington State.

"Playing between Benji Olson and Bob Sapp made me 10 times better," said Kreutz, who dreamed of being all-Pac-10 as a sophomore, but never thought he would.

But then he didn't think he'd even be at Washington this year.

To suggest the fight was as painful for Kreutz as it was for Wiggs is ridiculous. Wiggs lost 65 pounds with his jaw wired, he missed the first three games of the season, and he never regained his starting spot.

But Kreutz was wounded. He was instructed by Lambright to take an anger-management course. He was suspended from the team throughout the summer. He was told he wouldn't play again if he were involved in another incident.

When his mother wouldn't support his return home to Hawaii, he rallied instead around his "Hawaiian brothers" on the team: Ink Aleaga, Petro Kesi and Ikaika Malloe.

"They talked me through things," he said. "They stuck with me."

Kreutz is soft-spoken. He has that gentle demeanor of the carefree Hawaiian. But the volcano inside is dormant, not extinct.

He said he's had no problems this season containing his aggression to the football field.

"They taught me how to leave it there, on the field," he said. "I know I made a mistake. I'm very sorry for what I did to him. But I've grown up, I've matured. I think things are better."

Kreutz is explosive on the field, playing with an emotion that borders on rage. But more than anything, he is a very good athlete.

At St. Louis High School in Honolulu, a perennial power, he was captain his senior year as his team won the state championship with a 13-0 record. But he was also state heavyweight wrestling champion as a senior, and threw the shot put.

"He has such good feet and balance," Lambright said. "We saw that from the beginning."

Kreutz was the only member of his recruiting class at Washington to play as a just-out-of-high-school freshman. Ironically, he came to Washington because the Huskies told him he wouldn't play.

"Other schools told me I'd play as a freshman, but the Washington coaches said I'd probably redshirt," Kreutz said. "That seemed more truthful to me. I wasn't sure I was ready to play."

Kreutz made recruiting visits to Colorado, Nebraska, Arizona, Washington and Hawaii. His parents, Lora, a teacher, and Henry, a stevedore, apparently wanted him on the mainland. Following a well documented and decorated Hawaiian connection - Brostek, Aleaga, Pat Kesi, Siupeli Malamala, Ricky Andrews - he picked Washington and played in all but one game as a freshman, rare at most positions, but almost unheard of on the offensive line at Washington.

Kreutz is a warrior. He loves battle. He just has to take care choosing the field and the opposition. Fortunately for his teammates - in lots of ways - he is doing that.

You can contact Blaine Newnham by voice mail at 464-2364.