Kids are the most honest and direct of all of us. You never have to wonder what they are thinking. Unconcerned, you might say even oblivious, to social customs, they spit it out.
Saturday morning at the Blue Chip Football Camp at Montgomery High School, Koa Misi stood in front of 180 kids. While he did receive an enthusiastic ovation for being the 40th overall pick in the June NFL draft, the kids weren't going to give the former Montgomery star a free ride.
"You gonna play the Raiders this year?"
"Yes," said Misi innocently, who has a better than a good chance of starting at outside linebacker for the Miami Dolphins. Poor Koa. He walked right into this one.
"You're gonna get crushed," came the youthful reply.
The reply was like starting a forest fire.
"When you play the Saints, do they kill you?" said a kid not quite grasping that Misi has yet to play in the NFL.
"Did you get your butt beat?" asked another, working hard that Raider theme.
Welcome to the NFL, Koa, where even the kids have attitude.
Of course, if Misi couldn't stand the heat, he wouldn't be in this kitchen. Football provides all kind of heat, from the physical contact to the strategy to the prerequisite athleticism to that feeling this is where Misi belongs, on the football field.
"I'm ready for the contact," Misi said. "The OTAs (organized team activity) just don't do it for me. That's when you can tell who can play football and who can't. What can be better than playing football and hitting someone?"
If Misi can't play football -- and he won't until July 29 when he reports to the Dolphins' training camp -- then what he did Saturday at Montgomery is probably the next best thing. Talking about the game, sumo wrestling with Frank Scalercio Jr., saying hello to all the homies who have known him since he was a rugrat, Misi was home in the truest and purest sense of the word.
"This is where I started to love football," Misi told the kids. He was 10 when his dad, Sione, allowed him to first play. It was Frank Scalercio's Blue Chip Camp, now in its 24th year, where Koa Misi, 10, found the game that seemed so completely fulfilling to him.
"I didn't allow Koa to play until he was 10 because I wanted him to play the other sports that would develop his agility and quickness," said Sione, once a college football player himself at Hawaii. "The contact, I knew that would come naturally."
The adoration of NFL players came naturally, too, for Misi, especially when his first real exposure to a pro was Jesse Sapolu, the 49ers' former offensive lineman. Sapolu was Sione Misi's mentor at Hawaii, two years older, and the two became fast friends. Sapolu, and this is not a coincidence, was truly one of the best pros the 49ers ever had, a professional in every sense of the word -- hard-working, responsible, intelligent, not a finger-pointer, and this incredibly fast block of granite.
Sapolu came up to Santa Rosa once to play slow-pitch softball with his college buddy against local law enforcement at Howarth Park. Sapolu looked at young Koa and asked him if he would run the bases after he hit the ball. Sapolu didn't have to ask twice.