Mike Ewaliko: He Put the Whammy on Jammi in Miami
The hair is a lot longer, the physique far skinnier. Twenty-five years later, Mike Ewaliko is hardly recognizable, a slender and laid-back entrepreneur rather than the hulking and free-spirited football player he once was.
Ewaliko owns Precision Shaper, an ambitious and hugely successful company that makes robotic equipment and software, with a focus on the X Games industry, among many other things.
Not bad for guy from South Seattle who initially couldn't get eligible as a Washington football player because he was lacking a math class.
Ewaliko, a native Hawaiian, likes to tell how he came into the Husky football program as a maverick and left much more disciplined because his coaches insisted on it, especially defensive-line coach Randy Hart.
"It was a roller coaster," the former defensive tackle said of his college career, which ended in 1995. "I paid a lot for being me. I was probably coach Hart's favorite guy to abuse. I beat my own drum a lot."
Ewaliko was an unforgettable part of the Huskies team that traveled to Miami and ended the Hurricanes' 58-game home winning streak at the Orange Bowl with a resounding 38-20 beatdown on national TV in 1994.
In the unexpected mismatch christened the Whammy in Miami, Ewaliko was a microcosm of what happened in the South Florida heat. He leveled noted Miami receiver Jammi German from behind on a screen play, serving up one of the most violent UW hits in modern times.
"I thought I'd just give him a little hello from Seattle," Ewaliko said, always menacing looking in No. 88 with the high-arching shoulder pads. Check out his German demolition here, it's scary:
Today, you can find Ewaliko in his modest shop at the back of an unmarked three-story building, situated off a busy Seattle thoroughfare. His company has done so well he owned a half-dozen expensive vehicles and motorcycles all at once and wore suits to work.
But that wasn't him. He's down to one Jeep and prefers a T-shirt and shorts when he's coming up with another innovation, whether he's building a precision machine or an unusual product.
"We've got a lot of weird things in here," he said, holding up a Don James figurine the size of an Oscar that was created by ex-Husky lineman Matt Hicks.
The father of three, Ewaliko keeps tabs on two teenaged sons who played or play football for Ballard High School, and a 10-year-old who's a baseball player. The older boys have bigger biceps than Mike does.
Roman is a fullback considering a preferred walk-on offer from Washington. Sixteen-year-old Nowlin already packs a 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame, similar to his father when he played, and USC has already called on the defensive lineman.
The older Ewaliko started parts of three seasons for the Huskies and did a lot of running at practice. Hart ferreted out much of the punishment to get him to toe the line.
Ewaliko even drew an explosive reaction from Jim Lambright for questioning the then-new coach's decision to switch to purple helmets. He circulated a petition opposing the move with his teammates, setting off Lambright. He spent much of a practice paying for it on his hands and knees, with the coach screaming in his ear.
He and his teammates had to be extra tough back then, an element that served them well in Miami but one they haven't always seen in Huskyland since they left.
"Our biggest hits were on Montlake, more than anything in the game," Ewaliko said. "It was crazy. It was the way they coached all of us. There were a lot of drill shots on our players. That was expected."
As he runs his company and raises his sons, Ewaliko credits his coaches with turning him into the man he is now. He's try to pay it back.
He was an integral part of the players' group that raised funds to build the James statue and was responsible for coming up with the design that was used. He meets monthly with Hart for lunch. He considers him, Lambright and James as highly influential figures in his life.
"I wish, in retrospect, I could have listened to them a little more," Ewaliko said. "I do know they taught me well."