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 HONOLULU (AP) -Inoke Funaki hasn't started a football game in nearly seven years. But after having doors literally slammed in his face and spending two years on the bench, patience is something the Hawaii quarterback has aplenty.
Listed No. 3 on the depth chart to open the season for the third straight year, Funaki has been chosen as Hawaii's starter against Weber State on Saturday night.
``I've been in the system a couple years now. There's still a lot of things I need to get good at but overall, I have a pretty good idea of what goes on,'' Funaki said Tuesday.
It will be Funaki's first start since 2001, when he led Kahuku High School to its second straight state title. Raised in the quiet coastal North Shore community of Laie, he will become the first homegrown product to assume the high-profile job since Timmy Chang.
``It's nice to be here at home and play for a lot of people I know and play for family and represent a state that raised me,'' he said. ``It's exciting.''
Funaki earned the nod after a strong performance last weekend at Florida. He entered in the fourth quarter with Hawaii down 56-0 and directed the Warriors to their only two scoring drives on the game. He was 8-of-11 for 110 yards and threw Hawaii's lone touchdown, a scrambling 13-yard strike to Greg Salas.
``Inoke Funaki came in and played his heart out,'' Warriors coach Greg McMackin said.
Quarterbacks coach Nick Rolovich added, ``He wasn't perfect, but he was inspiring. I think that's something you can't put a price on.''
Funaki isn't the typical rookie. For one, he's a 25 year-old junior. After leading Kahuku to two state titles, he served on a Mormon church mission to the Dominican Republic for two years before joining the Warriors.
``I would just go out and teach the Gospel,'' Funaki said. ``I would go around, meet people, knock on doors and get doors slammed in my face. People would tell me, 'Get out of here.'
``You just learn to let it go and not hold any grudges,'' he said. ``Patience.''
When he returned to the islands, Funaki redshirted for a season before spending two years behind Colt Brennan and Tyler Graunke. Last year, he made five appearances and completed 10-of-15 passes for 136 yards and three TDs.
Funaki, however, never complained about lack of playing time.
``When I told him he wasn't the guy, he didn't cry, he didn't whine, he just tried to make the other guys better and when he got his opportunity he made the most of it,'' McMackin said. ``And that's why he's going to get his shot.''
Junior college transfers Greg Alexander and Brent Rausch are taller with strong arms. But Funaki has shown he has experience, poise and the respect of his teammates.
``He's a leader,'' running back Leon Wright-Jackson said. ``He's not really a vocal guy, but you saw him at The Swamp. When he got in, he's just a phenomenal player. He's an athlete. I'm sure he's going to get it done this weekend.''
As shown in the loss to Florida, Funaki is a threat when he's on the run. His scrambling ability can create plays and keep defenses off balance.
``He's instinctual. That's the best athletes you can find,'' Rolovich said. ``He brings another dimension to our game.''
Funaki is considered a ``gamer,'' who steps up his game when the bright lights are on. Funaki said it could be the game-time adrenaline or the ``sense of urgency'' he feels.
``Sometimes in practice, because we have the orange jerseys and the coaches say, 'Don't touch us,' you don't feel that urgency,'' he said. ``When you're in the game, you know that if you don't get the ball off, someone's going to whack you.''
Rolovich, who broke 19 school passing records in 2001, said he sees a lot in Funaki that could help the Warriors, who are stinging from last week's blowout to the Gators.
``His greatest asset is not his athleticism. It's not his knowledge of the system. It's Inoke Funaki as a person,'' Rolovich said. ``That's the most important thing for this team right now.''

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