The Brigham Young Cougars have two wide receivers that they hope will be menaces to the opposing secondary in 2011. Cody Hoffman and Ross Apo are two big bodies with immeasurable potential. Fifteen years ago, BYU had two wide receivers from Hawaii who gave defenders more than they could handle.
Levi “K.O.” Kealaluhi and Kaipo McGuire were a nice tandem in 1996. Kealaluhi, a native of Makawao, Hawaii, came to BYU from Grossmont Junior College in 1995. McGuire, a native of Pearl City, Hawaii, arrived at BYU in 1992. They both blossomed as seniors and were a large part of that season’s great success.
Kealaluhi was the team’s leading receiver. He racked up 901 yards on just 49 receptions; eight of those were touchdowns. K.O. was Mr. Clutch and will be remembered for landing two huge knockout punches. He scored the winning touchdown in the season opener against Texas A&M on a 46-yard bomb with just 1:03 to play to give BYU a stunning 41-37 win. He scored the winning touchdown from 28 yards out in the Cotton Bowl against Kansas State
Other highlights for K.O. during the season included two touchdowns from over 50 yards away. One was a season long 69-yarder against Arkansas State. The other was a 56-yarder against SMU with just 28 seconds left in the first half. For the game versus SMU, Kealaluhi had four receptions for 111 yards. Despite a scary grade 2 ligament tear in his knee during the TCU game, K.O. played the next week against UTEP and provided a critical offensive boost. For five straight games (UNLV through Rice), he caught a touchdown.
Both Kealaluhi and McGuire had their best game against Texas A&M. Kealaluhi did much more against the Aggies than score the aforementioned winning touchdown. He had six receptions for 151 yards on the day with one touchdown. McGuire finished the season opener with seven receptions for 146 yards and two touchdowns. One touchdown was for 51-yards. He had another 53-yard reception.
On the season, McGuire had 42 receptions for 658 yards and five touchdowns. These numbers earned him 2nd team All-WAC (Mountain Division) honors. McGuire caught a touchdown in each of the season’s first four games. He also added a 43-yard reception in the TCU game. While K.O. was delivering knockout hits, McGuire was taking them. Running very similar out routes, and in a very similar location on the field, McGuire was popped very hard in the Texas A&M and Kansas State games. Though diminutive, McGuire could fly. He was clocked under 4.4 in the 40 at the BYU pro day following the 1996 season.
Former BYU head coach LaVell Edwards once said in a Deseret News interview, “K.O. makes plays – none bigger than the catch against A&M. Kaipo is quicker, has good speed and is very tough for a little guy. He’s also a good blocker. K.O. is more physical and bigger. They both catch the ball extremely well.”
Kealaluhi and McGuire combined for roughly 38% of the team’s passing yards in 1996. If Hoffman and Apo are as integral to the BYU passing game in 2011, then it will be a good year.
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