Pass Master

Hawaii's Timmy Chang has the most prolific arm in NCAA history--but that doesn't guarantee NFL success
November 15, 2004

Timmy Chang broke the record in style. Hawaii's senior quarterback went into last Saturday's game against Louisiana Tech needing just 14 yards to eclipse the NCAA career passing mark of 15,031, set by BYU's Ty Detmer from 1988 to '91. Less than six minutes into the first quarter, Chang claimed the record--not on some cheapo swing pass or dump-off, but with a seven-yard dart to wideout Jason Rivers for the Rainbow Warriors' first touchdown of the night.

Having made history, Chang was hugged by his teammates, his head coach, June Jones, and by Vili the Warrior, Hawaii's grass-skirted, bare-chested, heavily perspiring 300-plus-pound mascot. Detmer then appeared on the scoreboard video screen, graciously congratulating Chang, his family and the fans of Hawaii.

What ever happened to Detmer, you ask? He now totes a clipboard for the Atlanta Falcons, backing up Michael Vick. Seeing Detmer's recorded message made one wonder what the future holds for Chang. Like Detmer, he has had a magical college career. Like Detmer, he is the beneficiary of a passer-friendly system. The moment he took the Hawaii job five years ago, Jones set about installing a run-and-shoot offense. "It's difficult to be physically better than the other team," he says. "The scheme gives us a chance to win games." With one 10-win season and three nine-win seasons, Jones is the most successful coach in the history of Warriors football.

But does the QB who spearheaded most of those W's--on Saturday, Chang completed 26 of 42 passes for 285 yards, four touchdowns and a pick in a 34-23 victory--have the right stuff to make it in the pros?

"He'll play somewhere," says Hawaii assistant Mouse Davis, the run-and-shoot guru whose three decades of coaching include five seasons in the NFL. "He can make the throws. He's very accurate, has a good release, his ball has good velocity. And he saves a lot of sacks [with his ability to elude defenders]. The knock on him is going to be that he's 6'1"."

Adds Jones: "A lot of things that he does innately we really don't ask him to do. He can throw on the run, do nakeds and boots and trap passes and other stuff. I think when he gets to the next level, he'll be even better."

If Chang is an NFL success, he'll have the support of an entire state behind him. Chang starred at Honolulu's St. Louis School, throwing an absurd 64 touchdown passes as a senior. He had offers from all over the country, and even his parents hoped he would leave the nest. "I wanted him to go," says Levi Chang, the principal at another Honolulu high school. "I wanted him to be exposed to different people from different parts of the country." Pride in his home state was one of the main reasons that Timmy spurned schools from the mainland. "If I was going to do something special with football," he says, "I thought I might as well do it here."

After Chang hit Rivers for that seven-yard score, he took the ball the referee had given him and trotted to the visitors' sideline, toward a man wearing a red baseball cap. For the last 10 years Levi Chang has been the "red cap" at Hawaii home games--the guy in charge of letting game officials know when a TV timeout is over. In one of the more touching vignettes from this season, the son embraced the father. There was no doubt, in that moment, that Chang's decision to stay in Hawaii was the right one.


TWO COLOR PHOTOSRONEN ZILBERMAN (2) BYE, TY Chang headed for the sidelines to hug his dad after eclipsing Detmer's record.