The Good Guys (And Gals) Of Isle Sports

It’s a holiday tradition — the annual Bob Hogue/MidWeek Nice People Awards, as I honor those who made covering sports such a great privilege this past year. Here are my selections as the Nice People for 2014:

Marcus Mariota: Humble. Honorable. Heroic. Hawaii’s first Heisman winner not only had a great season to win college football’s most coveted award, but he said all the right things in his memorable and emotional acceptance speech. From the Hawaiian Islands to the Pacific Northwest, we are proud of his accomplishments, but we are proudest of his classy ways as a Saint Louis and Oregon quarterback, both on and off the field.

Heisman Trophy Winner Football

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Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota holds the Heisman Trophy Dec. 13 after being named college football's best player during the Heisman Trophy presentation in New York KELLY KLINE / HEISMAN TRUST PHOTO

Vinny Passas: Mariota remembered the mentor of Crusader quarterbacks by inviting Passas to the Heisman ceremony in New York. It was a fitting honor for a man who has groomed not only Mariota, but other Saint Louis passing greats like Jason Gesser, John Hao, Darnell Arceneaux, Timmy Chang, Jeremiah Masoli, Joe Correia, Joel Lane, Chris Sokugawa, Micah Mamiya, Bobby George and others, including the next great one, Tua Tagovailoa.

Darnell Arceneaux: The former Saint Louis and University of Utah star elevated Mariota to the starting quarterback spot when he took over the Crusader program in 2010 and then guided them to the state title. He’s now coaching quarterbacks at Occidental College in southern California.

Milton McKenzie: The junior quarterback led Mililani to its first state high school championship with a record-setting seven TD passes in the title game. He followed up by verbally committing to stay home and play for University of Hawaii.

Ken Niumatalolo: The former Rainbow QB and assistant coach became the winningest head football coach in Navy history this past season. Navy now has defeated Army 13 straight years.

Kolten Wong: The former UH baseball star became a force at the Major League level in just his second season in the Bigs, leading the St. Louis Cardinals to the NLCS.

Benjy Taylor: Taking over the UH men’s basketball coaching job at the last moment, he’s already led the ‘Bows to some big wins and made them a fun team to watch.

Fiona McKenna: The Hawaii Pacific University senior wrapped up her stellar collegiate running career by earning All-American honors, winning her second straight PacWest women’s cross country title and finishing sixth in the national championships.

Stella Chen: The BYU-Hawaii senior finished up an incredible four-year career in Laie by becoming the first player ever to win PacWest women’s volleyball player of the year honors for four straight years.

Pablo Coro: The Seasider junior guard from Chile has BYU-Hawaii’s men’s basketball team off to its best start in the school’s history.

Lee Bailey: Chaminade’s prolific and high-scoring point guard is a leader both on the court and off, doubling up as the Silverswords SAAC president.

Also, a big mahalo to all the wonderful people I’ve interviewed this past year. I received great feedback from readers on MidWeek columns about Bob Apisa, Bob Wagner, Elyse Umeda, Shawna Lei-Kuehu, Garrett Gabriel, Carlos Anderson, John Veneri, Abe Markowitz, Petr Michnev, Bruce Kennard, Mike Miller, Mike Taylor, Dottie Nahale, Derek Nakasato, Rod and Lynn York, and many others. The interview subjects made my job fun and the follow-up notes from MidWeek readers made me smile.

Mele Kalikimaka and Hau‘oli Makahiki Hou to all the nice people of Hawaii sports!