WAILUKU - As national signing day passed and February turned into summer, Mitchell Loewen never lost faith. In fact, he just kept growing.
The 2010 Maui Interscholastic League Defensive Player of the Year has gone from a 6-foot-2, 210-pound linebacker as a Lahainaluna High School junior to 6-5 and 225 as a senior and now - less than a month away from landing in Fayetteville as an invited walk-on for the Arkansas football program - is nearing 6-6 and 265 pounds.
"Nope, I never worried, I always knew it would happen," Loewen said of the offer that, to others, seemed like it would never arrive. "I kept my faith in God because I knew he was going to put me somewhere."
Mitchell Loewen was the Maui Interscholastic League Defensive Player of the Year as a senior at Lahainaluna High School.
The Maui News / AMANDA COWAN photo
Somewhere turns out to be the Southeastern Conference after this week's preferred walk-on offer.
"Yup, Arkansas, pretty amazing," Loewen said. "I went on a trip with Dennis Ishii - I met him at the All-Poly Camp on Oahu - and he has been my mentor through this whole thing. He has known (Arkansas defensive line) coach (Steve) Caldwell since they were young and he just came through for me."
Despite solid grades, a 4.8-second time in the 40-yard dash, strength off the charts and playing ability to boot, Loewen had no solid scholarship offers until Tulsa and Oklahoma State came in with partials late last week.
The Arkansas offer was better, according to Loewen.
"Big relief, for sure, and the SEC, too - I couldn't turn it down," he said. "SEC football. Yeah, the SEC is the closest thing to the NFL there is in college. It's the big leagues."
Loewen said he recently bench-pressed 255 pounds 18 times on his friend Brett Tillman's 18th birthday.
"I have just been lifting and training," Loewen said. "We wanted to see if we could bench our weight as many times as our age."
The long wait for the opportunity to play college football proved to be worth it.
"Lahainaluna to Arkansas, I think it is pretty special," he said. "Now I just have got to prove myself over there and see how I stack up."
Arkansas went 10-3 last season - 6-2 in the SEC - and played in the Sugar Bowl.
Loewen said the Razorbacks' coaches have told him he will most likely be a defensive end.
"They are going to bring me into summer camp on August 2nd and see what I got," he said. "If they think I have what it takes to help them win the SEC, then they will keep me eligible. If not, I will redshirt. It is all up to me right now."
Loewen said he wanted to go to the University of Hawaii until his recruiting trip in February. When he arrived in Manoa he was the only Neighbor Island recruit there, he said, and one of only two from Hawaii.
"My tape was as good or better than anybody there, so it was kind of like a slap in the face when they said I had to walk on," he said. "The California guys, I saw their tapes and they didn't look that good to me at all. Even the California kids were surprised when I didn't get an offer from them.
"I think the UH coaches ignore the Hawaii guys, especially the Neighbor Island guys. We are right in their backyard and they are just ignoring a lot of talent."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org.