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Hawaii's Chang may become most prolific QB in college history

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  • Hawaii's Chang may become most prolific QB in college history

    HONOLULU (AP) -- Hawaii coach June Jones knew special things were in store for his football program when a lanky, baby-faced teenager first stepped onto the Manoa practice field in 2000 and completed eight straight passes.

    Since then, quarterback Timmy Chang has thrown for 12,814 yards and 79 touchdowns and is closing in on becoming the most prolific passer in college history.

    The senior needs 2,218 yards to break the 13-year-old NCAA career passing mark of 15,031 set by Brigham Young's Ty Detmer, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1990.

    Chang, who is 1,030-of-1,834, is also on pace to break the NCAA marks in career completions (1,231) and pass attempts (1,883), held by Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury. With 67 interceptions thrown, Chang is the verge of breaking Purdue quarterback Mark Herrmann's record of 73.

    Barring injury or any mental lapses that led to his benching last year, Chang -- who averages 320.4 passing yards per game -- could surpass Detmer's record by midseason.

    "I had envisioned this happening if he had stayed healthy," Jones said. "The first time I saw him in our training camp, I knew he would play as a freshman. And anybody that lines up and plays 12 games a year in this offense is going to have a shot at that record."

    If he does break Detmer's record, Chang said it is a reflection of all his coaches and teammates -- past and present.

    "Football is the biggest team game," he said. "You got 11 guys on the field that need to work together to accomplish one goal. It would be selfish to award myself, so I would never do that."

    Hawaii is also touting Chang as a Heisman hopeful. He could have a big season, given that 10 offensive starters are returning from last year's 9-5 squad, which was second in the nation in passing.

    He has already set or tied 36 school records and eight Western Athletic Conference marks. Not bad considering he didn't play the sport until junior high school.

    "Football wasn't a part of my childhood experience other than on the streets," Chang said. "I love basketball more than football, even now. But football was a tool for me to get ahead."

    The youngest of three children, Chang said he focused on football to lessen his parents' financial burden of paying for a college education. He expects to graduate next spring with a liberal arts degree.

    Despite his lofty numbers, Chang has struggled with injuries and inconsistency.

    Last year, he was booed by the home crowd and benched late in the season for ineffectiveness. However, he came off the bench and threw for 475 yards and five touchdowns in a 54-48 triple-overtime victory over Houston in the Hawaii Bowl.

    Chang said his most difficult time was when he suffered a season-ending wrist injury just three games into the 2001 season.

    "That was my lowest point. It's hard when you train so hard and all of a sudden you're not able to play. I was hurt emotionally and physically," said Chang, who was granted a medical hardship by the WAC.

    "Going through adversity, being hurt, playing through injury, being booed, being disrespected by your own home fans," has only helped, Chang said. "As they say, if it doesn't kill you, it will only make you stronger."

    And this season, Chang seems as dedicated, confident and focused as ever.

    "He's religiously here twice a day, lifting and throwing," Jones said. "He knows what's at stake here and it's paying off because he's having his best fall camp."

    Jones said Chang, who was a star quarterback at his Honolulu high school, has to expect criticism wherever he plays.

    "My feeling with quarterbacks is, you better get used to it," Jones said. "If you're under the center with any football team, you got to get the job done. We throw the ball, so just by nature there's a little more on you. But the bottom line is if you can't handle it, then you can't handle it. He's been able to handle it."

    The 6-foot-2, 194-pound Chang always had the athletic ability, but it was a just matter of maturing, his coach said.

    "He had to grow up a lot, which I think he has over the last 41/2 years," Jones said.

    Chang, 22, said he feels stronger "mentally, emotionally and physically," and teammates have noticed.

    "He is so much more confident, knowing we all have his back," said cornerback Abraham Elimimian. "No matter what, Timmy Chang is the man. He's the guy we're going to fight for. The better he does, the better we're going to do, too."

    During recent drills, Chang calmly aired out perfect 40-yard bombs and connected on several short strikes. The only time Chang showed any emotion was when he threw a rare bad pass.

    "It's getting to the point where all we want to do is be perfect," Chang said. "Any incomplete pass, dropped ball, overthrown ball or any mistakes, we just want to eliminate and be as perfect as possible."

    Sophomore receiver Jason Rivers said he can't wait to showcase the offense.

    "It's good to have a quarterback like him because you don't have to try that hard to get the ball," Rivers said. "He puts it on the money."

    Chang said he's not too worried about surpassing Detmer's record, pointing out it's not a given that he'll break it.

    "I've learned over the years, so many things can happen and nothing's a guarantee," he said. "What I've done is focused on the little things. The records and the success will come if you concentrate on the small things."

    Hawaii's season opens Sept. 4 at home against Florida Atlantic.

    Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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