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HPA retires Max Unger’s football number during April 2 ceremony

Max Unger signs his autograph for HPA students, from left, Brody Hartley and Caleb McKendry. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM | NHN)
Max Unger signs his autograph for HPA students, from left, Brody Hartley and Caleb McKendry. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM | NHN)
Max Unger signs a football for HPA third grader Eliana DeRego. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
Max Unger signs a football for HPA third grader Eliana DeRego. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
HPA student Kiki Kozuma gives Max Unger a lei as Morgan Monahan and Scott Fetz wait in line. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
HPA student Kiki Kozuma gives Max Unger a lei as Morgan Monahan and Scott Fetz wait in line. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
HPA third graders and Betsy Tranquilli, HPA physical education teacher, left, pose for a photo with Max Unger during his number retirement ceremony at the HPA Upper Campus on April 2. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
HPA third graders and Betsy Tranquilli, HPA physical education teacher, left, pose for a photo with Max Unger during his number retirement ceremony at the HPA Upper Campus on April 2. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
HPA third graders pose with Max Unger during his number retirement ceremony on April 2. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
HPA third graders pose with Max Unger during his number retirement ceremony on April 2. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
Max Unger signs the back of HPA stduent Brittani Boora’s T-shirt after the presentation. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
Max Unger signs the back of HPA stduent Brittani Boora’s T-shirt after the presentation. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
A sign honoring Max Unger was unveiled during the ceremony retiring his number at the school on April 2. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
A sign honoring Max Unger was unveiled during the ceremony retiring his number at the school on April 2. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
Max Unger holds his retired shirt the school presented to him during the ceremony retiring his number. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM | NHN)
Max Unger holds his retired shirt the school presented to him during the ceremony retiring his number. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM | NHN)

Students at HPA upper campus had a surprise visit from Max Unger, a Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl champion and former HPA football player. During a special assembly for him in the school’s gym on April 2, the school retired Unger’s HPA football number, 77, and presented him with a framed copy of the jersey.

“We are all extremely proud of Max and very happy to have him join us here today with his wife, Lea, his mother, Cynda, and his father, Keith,” said Stephen Perry, HPA athletic director, after donning an extra large Seattle Seahawks jersey in Unger’s number 60.

Also attending the ceremony was Robert A. Fitzgerald, deputy director of the County of Hawaii Department of Parks and Recreation who was also a former coach of Unger’s. Fitzgerald read a proclamation declaring the day “Max Unger Day” in Hawaii County.

Fitzgerald said that the message of Unger’s success for the students should be, “You can.”

“It about the dreams that you kids have to get up there also,” he said to the students. “Don’t ever say ‘No,’ that you can’t.”

Surprising Unger was Tom Goodspeed, Unger’s former HPA head football coach, who flew in from California for the event.

HPA senior Keenan Greenbaum, the last to wear number 77 before it was retired, unveiled a new sign on the school’s gym with Unger’s name and number.

HPA Headmaster Lindsay Barnes called Unger an “ambassador for HPA.”

“Ambassadorship is about perception,” Barnes said. “Great ambassadors are honest, respectful of themselves and respectful of others. He is a great ambassador for HPA.”

Barnes said when Unger once visited the school and answered questions from student athletes, a student asked him how he could aspire to be a professional football player.

“Max said, ‘Work hard, study, and in high school play all the sports you can possibly play,’” Barnes said. “That is the greatest advice I ever heard a professional athlete give.”

Later, Unger said that he is often asked for his key to success.

“There really isn’t one to be honest with you,” he said.

He told the students that whatever they do well, to focus on it. He said there would always be people more talented and luckier, but that can’t be an excuse not to obtain their goals.

“It is easy to find something you are passionate about; the hard part is doing the work. That is where you make your mind up,” he said. “This is something that you can’t avoid – there is no way to go around it. Old school work ethic is really all it is.”