After five schools, four decades and three national championships, Norm Chow's career has come full circle.
A tearful Chow was introduced Thursday as the new coach of Hawaii in an emotional news conference surrounded by old friends, including a high school teammate.
"I'm honored, I'm humbled and I'm awfully excited to be here to stand before you as the next football coach of the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors," Chow said, using the mascot name that was shed more than a decade ago under former coach June Jones.
The 65-year-old Chow was born and raised in Honolulu and got his coaching start in the islands. Today, Chow is being looked upon to revive the struggling Warriors football program that failed to make the postseason this year.
"How many people are fortunate enough to go full circle? I'm blessed. I'm honored. I know that," he said. "I say my prayers every morning and I'm grateful for that. I started at Waialua High School in 1970 and to have this chance to come back home all these years later is just a treat. It's a privilege and I'm never going to ever forget that."
Chow has become an instant island icon in this football crazed state with no professional team sports. He was scheduled to attend a reception hosted by Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Thursday night before returning to Utah, where he is in his first season as offensive coordinator. The Utes are preparing to face Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.
Chow said his first goal as coach is to graduate student athletes and prepare them for their lives. But that's not all he wants to do.
"We're going to win football games," he said. "We're going to win as many football games as we can possibly win. That I will tell you. We will win football games and we will chase championships. ... We will make all of you proud. That, as well, is a promise to all of you."
He said his players will be ready come next season.
"Those that survive will be prepared to play football," he said.
Chow wouldn't name any possible assistants, but said they would be good recruiters. He said it will take some getting used to being on the field instead of calling plays from the box.
When asked about his defensive philosophy, he said, "It will be a very aggressive style with a lot of man-to-man coverage and teams better be able to pick up the blitzes when they see us play."
Chow has agreed to a five-year deal with the Warriors. Athletics director Jim Donovan wouldn't comment on the details. But it is believed to be significantly less than the $1.1 million a season paid to former coach Greg McMackin.
"Money has absolutely nothing to do with this," he said. "I have a chance to come home, I have a chance to represent this university. I have a chance to represent this state. I have a chance to hopefully serve as an example to some and money has nothing to do with that."
Chow said he will focus on recruiting, which includes keeping top local recruits to stay home.
"For years, I've come over here to recruit and I've been telling all these young kids to leave home," he said. "No more. We're going to tell them to stay home and make us proud. I'll have to change my recruiting pitch a little bit."
Chow got his coaching start at Waialua High and Intermediate School before becoming a graduate assistant at BYU in 1973. He spent 27 years as an assistant under LaVell Edwards at BYU running its innovative spread offense. He helped the Cougars to their only national championship in 1984.
He was also coordinator under Pete Carroll at USC when the Trojans won national titles in 2003 and 2004. He left USC in 2005 and became offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans but was fired after three seasons. Rick Neuheisel brought Chow to UCLA in 2007 for three seasons.
Chow may be best known for helping star quarterbacks Jim McMahon, Steve Young, Ty Detmer, Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. Detmer, Palmer and Leinart won Heisman Trophies under his tutelage.
Chow will make his coaching debut for Hawaii when the Warriors open the 2012 season at USC on Sept. 1. Hawaii faces BYU the same month in Provo, Utah.
"I've been coaching for a long time, but how much more exciting does it get than that? How much bigger of a challenge do you want? And if you didn't like challenges, you shouldn't be in the business," he said.
The Warriors just completed their final season in the Western Athletic Conference. They are moving to the Mountain West Conference starting next season. Chow said he wants Hawaii to play against the best.
"Bring 'em on," he said. Bring anybody on. Why would you want to play other people? If we want to be the best that we can be, then let's go play the best that we can play."
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