Friday Flashback: The Hawaiians

The Hawaiians played in the short-lived World Football League (WFL) and was the first professional football team on the islands.   Some called them the “Honolulu Hawaiians” or the “Hawaii Hawaiians” but the WFL simply referred to them as “The Hawaiians”.  They played in 1974-1975 in Honolulu.  The Hawaiians were perhaps the closest thing to an International team as the startup WFL could do.  Although they had their hopes for teams in Europe and Canada, those teams never materialized.

The WFL played a summer/fall schedule and competed with the National Football League (NFL) for players to fill their rosters.  Back in the day, it was a huge deal that the Hawaiians were able to sign Dallas Cowboys running back Calvin Hill.  Although he signed a contract in 1974, he had to finish his contract in Dallas before joining the Hawaiians for the 1975 season.  hill only played in three games.  In those three games, he carried the ball 49 times for 218 yards and no touchdowns before injury then the WFL folded before the season ended.

In 1974, the Hawaiians fell behind with a 1-7 record after eight games, but they rebounded to go 8-4 and clinch a playoff spot with a 9-11 record.  They were led by quarterbacks Randy Johnson and Norris Weese who combined for over 3100 yards passing and 25 touchdowns.  Johnson was a former NFL veteran.  Weese would later play in the Super Bowl for the Denver Broncos.  Sonny Davis was the teams’ leading rusher with 680 yards and four touchdowns. 

With other teams folding during the season, the league revised the playoff format which ended up allowing the Hawaiians to qualify for the post season.  They stunned the Southern California Sun 32-14 in the quarterfinals but fell short to the Birmingham Americans 22-19.

The Hawaiians were one of only three of the league’s teams who made their payroll in the 1974 season.

In 1975, the Hawaiians finished 4-7 before the league folded.  They played their last game on October 19, 1975 losing to the Southern California Sun 26-7 before 15,905 fans.  The Hawaiians were led by Sonny Sixkiller (yes, that was his name) with 799 yards and seven touchdowns.  Clayton Heath was the leader on the ground with 548 yards and five touchdowns.

I looked up Sixkiller and found he was a Cherokee Indian who played college football at Washington.  In college, he was given the number “6” to go along with his name.  He was not drafted but tried out with the Los Angeles Rams in 1973 and a couple of teams in the Canadian Football League (CFL) before signing with the Philadelphia Bell in 1974.  After playing for the Hawaiians and the folding of the WFL, he tried out for the San Diego Chargers.  He was a cast member in the movie “The Longest Yard”.

The Hawaiians surprisingly held their own in a failing league even with the expensive travel costs in those days.  The franchise might have lasted if the league had survived.  Aside from hosting the NFL Pro Bowl, Hawaii has only had a short-lived indoor football team.  There had been some rumors in the final year of the United States Football League (USFL) that the Denver Gold franchise might move to Hawaii.  

The Hawaiians had flashy uniforms and entertained the islands during the 1974 and 1975 seasons in the WFL.  It’s too bad they didn’t last.  


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