Surf's up for the Sun God

CHAD SCARSBROOK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:43 AM ET

"I enjoyed going to the movie. I just didn't like the way it ended."

Jeff Reinebold became the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' director of football operations and head coach on Jan. 7, 1997.

Less than two years later, sporting a record of 6-26, the Bombers mercifully pulled the plug on the Harley riding, earring wearing, tanned and tattooed, anti-Cal Murphy.

After being "banished from the kingdom," Reinebold went off to coach in NFL Europe before landing in 2005 at the University of Hawaii, where he works today as the defensive line/defensive ends/special teams coach alongside former Atlanta Falcons boss June Jones.

"I've enjoyed it here," Reinebold said from his office in Honolulu. "It's something I've wanted to do for a long time. This is such a unique and special place."

The Hawaii Warriors went 11-3 last season, winning the Hawaii Bowl against Arizona State. They were No. 24 in the rankings, the highest they've ever finished.

Entering this season Reinebold was in the running for the defensive co-ordinator position, but Jones gave the job to longtime colleague Greg McMackin.

"I was certainly disappointed. You always want to have an opportunity for more responsibility," said Reinebold, who will turn 50 in November. "We've got such great kids here. We probably have more talent on defence than they've ever had here at any one time."

Reinebold was also in serious discussions with the Oakland Raiders for their special teams job this winter but said the two sides made a "mutual choice" to go in another direction. Reinebold said he didn't want to uproot his 11-year-old son Cole and he was excited about the prospects of a special season in Hawaii, a place he loves to call home.

The Warriors have Colt Brennan entering his senior season, one of the top NCAA quarterbacks who is sure to be a high NFL draft pick next spring.

Reinebold, you might recall, never had the luxury of having a pivot he could count on during his days in Blue and Gold. Chris Vargas and Kevin McDougal got a shot in 1997, while the trio of T.J. Rubley, Troy Kopp and Kevin Mason were behind centre for Reinebold in 1998. Those five quarterbacks combined for 33 touchdowns and 53 interceptions during the Blue and Bold era.

"I made some critical errors, and I think the quarterback thing was probably the biggest issue we had," said Reinebold. "In that league you can never underestimate the value of that position. Inconsistent play at quarterback really, really hurt us. You look at that team and there was some talent around, but we just couldn't get a guy to come in and take it and go with it."

Despite all the losses, the man they now call Sun God on Waikiki Beach has many fond Blue Bomber memories -- includng a 34-23 win over Montreal at Winnipeg Stadium in 1998 when the Bombers didn't score an offensive TD and their surprisingly good record against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

"I started doing the math and amazingly in those two years we were three out of four against Saskatchewan," said Reinebold. "I think those games were the highlight because that's the big game. Those were the games the fans live and die for -- the rival games."

Reinebold specifically remembered the Sept. 13, 1998 game where the Bombers trailed the Riders 28-10 entering the fourth. They stormed back and Kopp threw a five-yard TD with 21 seconds remaining to win the game 36-35.

But for every good game there were (at least) five bad ones, and the Bombers had seen enough in October 1998 when the club was 2-12.

"When I think back on that the thing that is most imprinted on my memory is the people," said Reinebold. "The people I met there. Just how wonderful the people are in that city. I never have been bitter about what transpired. I always have felt very strongly that that was probably some of the best times I've had in coaching. Not because of the record but of quality of people you met on and off the field."

Reinebold said he was proud of starting off several players on the right foot like Nick Ferguson, now of the Denver Broncos, who played for Winnipeg in 1998-99.

"You look at the guys like Joe Fleming, Maurice Kelly, David Maeva and all those guys we brought in there -- a lot of them ended up staying around (the CFL) long enough to win a championship. And that's eventually what was going to come out of it (in Winnipeg). Our time ran out too fast before we could get it turned."

Today Reinebold has traded in his Harley for a surfboard and spends as much time as he can in the water when he's not coaching. He lives with his wife and son Cole.


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