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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 either.

"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 that.'

"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 Kong.

Actually, roster cuts came easily. The game fell through.

"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 don't intimidate.

"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 attitude.

"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 got."

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 prime rib."

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.