Since meeting for the first time in seventh grade, Linfield seniors Brent Shimabukuro and Sparky Gonzalez have created a friendship that is sure to last a lifetime.
Their connection began on the football field when Shimabukuro and Gonzalez were both attending St. Louis High School in Honolulu, Hawaii. Shimabukuro played on the offensive line, while Gonzalez on the defensive line.
“We were friends at St. Louis, but we never really hung out,” says Shimabukuro. “Everything changed when we started attending Linfield.”
After an on-campus visit from Wildcats assistant coach Doug Hire, Gonzalez and Shimabukuro decided Linfield would be the ideal choice to further their football careers and seek a quality education.
“Coach Hire came on a recruiting visit and met with me, Brent and other students,” notes Gonzalez. “He played the highlight tape from the year before. That was the turning point in my decision to attend Linfield and play ball.”
The destination was set. Gonzalez and Shimabukuro made their way to Linfield and from that point on, their football skills were not the only things to develop. Eventually, their friendship flourished as they grew closer on and off the field.
Once arriving at Linfield, Gonzalez and Shimabukuro followed different paths into the starting lineup. Gonzalez, four inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than his teammate, quickly made a name for himself and first appeared as a starter for Linfield in the fifth game of his freshman season.
“I was fortunate to get some playing time as a freshman,” reflects Gonzalez. “I was in the rotation at defensive end and then started a few games due to injury.”
On the other hand, Shimabukuro was left with the challenge of migrating from the offensive line, where he played in high school, to the defensive line in order to better help the team.
“It was a difficult transition,” says Shimabukuro. “Fortunately, the coaching staff and my teammates helped make it as smooth as possible.”
In particular, Gonzalez made time to help Shimabukuro succeed on the defensive line.
“Sparky had been doing it his entire career,” says Shimabukuro. “He was able to help me out and teach me correct techniques, which eventually made me a better player.”
During each offseason, football continued to run through their veins. They remained committed to working hard in the weight room and developing speed and agility while pushing one another to be better football players the following year.
“When we trained together, Brent really keeps me on my toes and keeps me motivated to train and get better,” says Gonzalez.
Even today, Gonzalez and Shimabukuro continue to help each other and their teammates reach their maximum performance level.
“Their work ethic sticks out the most to me,” notes teammate Nate Dixon. “Both of them practice extremely hard. Their drive to excel picks up the people around them and inspires everyone to get better.”
Now that they have both made their way onto the defensive line, coaches and players alike have noticed.
“They’ve both been in the in the program for a long time and know a lot about the defense,” says Linfield defensive coordinator Jackson Vaughan. “Both of them bring character and humor to the team, along with their defensive prowess.”
Though initially nothing more than classmates and teammates in high school, the two Wildcat defenders have created a bond that likely will stem far beyond Linfield.
“I live right above Brent and see him every day. We hang out on the weekends and always do things together back home during school breaks,” says Gonzalez. “He a great friend to have and I plan on being friends for a long time.”
Their career paths may take different directions once they graduate from college. Shimabukuro hopes to move into the health care industry, pursuing something along the lines of physical therapy. Gonzalez would like to coach football or start his own business.
Only one thing is certain for the two ‘Cats: Their friendship will continue no matter where their future endeavors lead them.
-- Ian Rapport '12