Choy dependable on the field


Justin Brown

Redshirt senior Pono Choy has overcome multiple knee injuries in order to return to the field to help the Panthers to an OVC championship.

Maria Baldwin, Features Writer

When you have played football your entire life, setbacks can be detrimental to your abilities to play the game.

Sometimes, it just takes a support system to motivate you to get back on track.

While injuries can hold an athlete back, there are always those who are there to support them.

For Eastern senior safety Pono Choy, it just so happened to be his girlfriend, who knew more about his injuries and recovery more than anyone because she had dealt with the same issues.

“It took time and a good support system,” Choy said. “Kamu (Grugier-Hill) and my girlfriend Lindsey helped me through. Lindsay tore her ACL twice so she knew what I was going through and the rehab you have to do. She would push me when I wasn’t working hard.”

Choy has had two surgeries on both of his knees. He had an ACL surgery on one knee, and six months later, he got into a car accident and had to get a minor surgery on his other knee.

Choy’s girlfriend, Lindsey Marino, is a senior on the women’s soccer team.

“I tore my ACL my sophomore year, and again my senior year,” Marino said. “It was hard, but I tried to help him find his love for the game again. On his bad days I would try to keep him positive and told him that it might hurt now doing the rehab, but he loves football and has to do it in order to come back and play.”

Despite the support, Marino said it is still easy to lose focus because of the long process that it takes in order to build back the muscle around your knee after having surgery.

While Choy knows that he is not in the best of shape as he once was, there are ways that he can compensate for not being as strong as he was before the surgeries.

“From all of my injuries, I’m not as explosive or athletic as I used to be,” Choy said. “I deal with it by being a better student of the game.”

Choy is using this new mind-set to his advantage, as any spectator would notice his sound presence on the field for the Eastern defense.

On Saturday against Southeast Missouri, Choy picked up a fumble in the backfield and returned it 22-yards for a touchdown to tie the game 14-14 in the third quarter.

“I just did my job,” Choy said. “My job was to finish the play. A lot of people gave up on it, but I was there in the right place at the right time because I was running to the ball.”

Choy has 40 total tackles on the season, in addition to the fumble recovery.

“You lose confidence when you get injured,” Choy said. “Dealing with the pain, extra rehab and on top of that trying to play and perform is hard. But I’m dependable, I’m always doing what I’m supposed to be doing on the field, or off the field.”

As far as the rest of the season is concerned, Choy said he just wants to continue playing with the passion to win, because he knows this is his last go-around.

“It’s my last season ever, so my goal is to just play the best I can possibly play—every day,” Choy said. “Maybe I’m hurt a little bit or maybe I’m sore, but I only have six more games left ever in my life.”

“A lot of people don’t expect the safety to come in and make tackles,” he said. “We get the best of both worlds. I could come up and play like a linebacker or make some tackles there or go on the outside and guard someone. It takes a lot of diversity.”

While Choy is quiet on the field, the big plays make noise for him. And even with the notoriety he has for overcoming injury after injury, he just wants to be remembered as the player who everyone could depend on to make the big plays.

“I just want people to remember that I’m a good Hawaiian dude. That I always did the right thing and was dependable and a hard worker.”

Maria Baldwin can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]