SOME SEMIPRO DREAMS ARE MADE IN HONG KONG
By Art Thiel P-I Columnist
SATURDAY, August 27, 1988
Section: Sports, Page: D1
Wedged between the Moose Lodge and CS
Custodial Services on Renton's aged Main
Street is a window bearing the helmeted logo
of the Southside War Hawks. As professional
football headquarters go, it would make a
decent one-man insurance office.
But as far as semipro ball is concerned, its
majesty outstrips St. Peter's Basilica.
It has a phone. Someone usually answers.
Lately, the office has broadened its
contacts beyond the Snohomish County Blue
Knights, Pierce County Bengals and Salem
Pioneers to become the unofficial North
American consulate for Asian football.
Not Asians playing football. Americans
playing football in Asia. Specifically,
Seattleites playing football in Asia.
I know. Nobody else believed Randy Jacoway
"When I got the airplane tickets to Hong
Kong, I took 'em out to practice so the
players would believe me," said the War
Hawks' director. "Not long after I got back
to the office, the phone started ringing.
All these other players calling: 'Hey, Jac,
I run a 4.4 40, I can do this, I can do
"I must have gotten 300 calls. It was so bad
I had to change the phone number."
EVENTUALLY 150 PLAYERS signed up late last
winter to try out for the War Hawks' roster
and a role in Hong Kong's first football
game between American teams on, ahem, April
1. Problem was, the War Hawks had equipment
for 60, and only 25 would travel to Hong
Actually, roster cuts came easily. The game
"Even my own coach, Eddie McMillan, didn't
believe me then," he said, referring to a
former starting cornerback during the
Seahawks' first two seasons. "They were
saying it was all a joke . . . no way could
I pull it off."
The main problem turned out to be a date
conflict with an annual international rugby
tournament at the government stadium.
Finally fixed with a rescheduling to May 7,
Jacoway began to see his two-year project go
from chop blocks to chop sticks.
He was inspired by an American language
teacher and entrepreneur in Hong Kong, Tom
Kelly, who figured football would be a
superb way to cash in on Asians' fascination
with American culture. Since expenses in
underwriting an NFL visit were prohibitive,
Kelly tried colleges. When none were
agreeable, semipro teams were suggested.
Travel was cheaper from the West Coast, so
Kelly began searching for players and teams
in California and the Northwest. Jacoway
volunteered to organize an all-star team
from the Northwest Football Alliance. But
the dissolution of the former national
champion Auburn Panthers helped lead to the
league's collapse after last season.
That left him with his Southside War Hawks -
a swell local team, but not exactly a
prestige name in the international trade
bazaars of Asia. Still, when you're black
and were once offered a hockey scholarship
to the University of Minnesota, big odds
"They told me nobody's gonna know anything
about these semipros in Hong Kong," Jacoway
said. "So I said let's get some pros."
HE RECRUITED FORMER Seahawk tight end Ron
Howard, former NFL cornerback Ervin Parker,
ex-Huskies Fletcher Jenkins and Toussaint
Tyler and former Arena Football League
player Ricky DuPree. Each was given a $1,000
fee plus $500 in expenses.
Jacoway, 35, a former corrections officer
and youth counselor, decided he would fill
the remaining 20 spots with players meeting
new criteria - attendance, performance and
"Miss three practices, you're gone," he told
the doubters. Even then, Jacoway would
collect car keys or a driver's license
before issuing shoulder pads.
"Hey," he said, "it's all the equipment we
On May 2, Jacoway and a party of 29 other
believers landed in Hong Kong and plunged
into a whirlwind of dinners, parties,
cruises, tours, autograph sessions and
interviews. Their opponents, the San Jose
Bandits, arrived two days later to help
spend the $118,000 sponsors had put up to
cover travel, room and board and expenses
for the American gladiators.
It wasn't quite like the high life in the
NFL, but as Jacoway put it, "The guys
couldn't read Chinese, but they could read
About 5,000 people showed up to watch San
Jose beat Seattle 20-6, which meant the
Bandits earned the right to be host team for
Hong Kong's second annual All-American
Football Bowl next May.
Since then, the War Hawks have returned to
the newly formed Northwest Football League,
where they are 3-1 heading into tonight's
game with the Eastside Express at Redmond
High School's stadium. Another win is a step
toward another Jacoway dream.
"There's this organization called the
Asian-American Football League," he said,
"and they want American teams to play in
Tokyo next year . . ."
Art Thiel is a staff columnist who writes
three times a week in the P-I.