MESA, Ariz. – Football fans all over the country revel in the joys of victory after watching their favorite teams notch a win. They may even attribute their squad’s triumph to the play of the quarterback, running back, wide receiver or defensive back. However, not every fan is fully aware of how important it is to have a great offensive and defensive line – the key to winning games starts in the trenches.
You won’t draft a lineman in any fantasy league, but these guys are just as important as any other player on the team. Any coach will tell you that it all starts up front.
With a 17-2 record and a National Conference Championship game looming, the Arizona Rattlers have set the tone with impressive play from both their offensive and defensive lines. The offensive line finished the regular season ranked second in sacks allowed, giving up a mere 16 sacks all year, while anchoring an offense that also ranks second in the AFL, averaging 61.9 points per game.
Not to be outdone, the defense has held strong, allowing the second fewest points per game at 46.4 and having the highest turnover ratio in the league at +34, both statistics from the regular season.
ASST. HEAD COACH KANI KAUAHI coaches the offensive and defensive lines and the plug linebacker position. Kauahi is in his sixth year coaching the Rattlers. He uses an analogy that compares football positions with different breeds of horses.
“There are different types of horses, just as there are different football positions,” said Kauahi, an Arizona State football alum. “You’ve got cold-blooded, warm-blooded, and hot-blooded breeds. The cold-blooded are your offensive lineman, they are your Clydesdales, they don’t get excited too quickly, but when it’s time to pull a load they understand what their job is and go out there and get after it.
“DB’s, WR’s, QB’s, and occasionally defensive lineman, they are your Arabians. Arabians are athletic, they are built for speed, but they are also flighty sometimes. They are going to go off the deep end every now and then, that is just their makeup.”
Kauahi is the man behind the reigns of these thoroughbreds, a coach whose lineage in football runs deep, playing center in the NFL for 11 years and his college ball under Frank Kush at Arizona State University. Yet, Kauahi’s warrior lineage runs deeper, hailing from Kekaha, Hawaii, Kauahi’s cultural history has been influential on his coaching style.
“My background is Polynesian, and as a culture we come from a warring society, in order to occupy lands we would have to invade, conquer, and take over,” says Kauahi, who helps translate this mindset into the every down battle that goes on within the trenches.
“Playing under Coach Kush was tough, but it taught me a lot. It really forged the foundation of how I approach things, not just as a coach, but also as a man,” said Kauahi. “Within my coaching approach it’s about passing on experiences that I’ve had and gone through, giving these guys another way to look at things. That’s what it’s all about for me.”
OL BRENNEN CARVALHO doesn’t mind being termed as one of Kauahi’s Clydesdales – he also understands that the spotlight isn’t likely to find him.
“As a lineman, you know what you’re getting into, we don’t usually get recognition, said Carvalho. “But when you get recognition from your own teammates – that’s enough.”
DL TYRE GLASPER is fully aware of the sheer physicality that his position demands.
“It’s really a mentality, not everybody can be a lineman, you have to be tough because it gets nasty down there,” said Glasper. “You’ve got to have that nastiness inside of you.”
This nastiness has allowed Glasper to lead the team in tackles for loss (10) and hold a tie for team sacks (8.5).
“Every fan might not know the pride we have, it’s not arrogance, it’s not cockiness, but it’s confidence. You have another guy across from you that’s just as big and strong as you,” said Glasper.
“You just can’t let him beat you.”
By Michael Guthrie-Maston