Wedemeyer Inducted to Polynesian Football Hall of Fame
The first class of the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame features a Hilo native and a former cast member of Hawaii Five-0.
Herman John Wedemeyer, born in Hilo on May 20, 1924, was announced as one of seven members to join the hall during a press conference Wednesday morning at the Sheraton Waikiki. The class also includes Kurt Gouveia, Olin Kreutz, Kevin Mawae, Junior Seau, Jack Thompson, and Ken Niumatalolo.
Wedemeyer was the first Polynesian to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame when he was included in 1979. The college halfback played for Saint Mary’s in the 1940s after playing basketball and football at St. Louis High School on Oahu. He was a consensus All-American for the Galloping Gaels and finished fourth in the Heisman trophy voting following the 1945 season. Saint Mary’s inducted him into its own Hall of Fame in 1973.
Wedemeyer, who was known by many nicknames, including “Squirmin’ Herman,” played two seasons in the All-American Football Conference. The Los Angeles Dons drafted him with the ninth overall pick in 1948 and led the league in punt return yardage in his rookie season. He played for the Baltimore Colts in his second and final professional season.
Politics and entertainment followed life after football. In 1968, he was elected as a Republican to a seat on the Honolulu City Council. Two years later, he became a Democrat and successfully ran twice for a seat in the state House of Representatives.
Wedemeyer had a starring role as “Duke” on the original version of Hawaii Five-0, which ran from 1968-1980. He is also credited for playing the role of a coroner in a 1981 episode of “Magnum, P.I.”
Wedemeyer died in Honolulu on Jan. 25, 1999. He was 74 years old.
Gouveia spent 13 seasons in the National Football League with the Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles, and San Diego Chargers. He won three state football championships and was part of Brigham Young University’s national championship team in 1984
Four-time All-Pro Kreutz enters the hall after 14 seasons in the NFL, 13 with the Chicago Bears. The Honolulu-born center was named to six consecutive Pro Bowls from 2001-2006 and was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 2000s. At the University of Washington, he won the Morris Trophy and was an All-American during the 1997 season.
Mawae, a two-time president of the NFL Players Association, was also part of the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 2000s. He split 16 NFL seasons between the Tennessee Titans, Seattle Seahawks, and the New York Jets. Mawae won the Ed Block Courage Award in 2009.
Seau spent 20 seasons in the National Football League and made the Pro Bowl in 12 of those years. He won the AFC Player of the Year Award and Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 1994 while playing for the San Diego Chargers. He died on May 2, 2012.
Thompson, born in American Samoa, was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals with the third pick in the 1979 draft, the highest selection for a Polynesian athlete. His jersey number 14 is retired at Washington State after leaving the college game with 7,818 passing yards, the most at the time in NCAA history.
Niumatalolo currently serves as the head coach at the United States Naval Academy. Since 2007, his midshipmen have made five bowl appearances and have won two Commander-in-Chief trophies. He is the first person with Samoan ancestry to earn a head coaching position in college football.
The Hawai`i Convention Center will host the enshrinement ceremony on Jan. 23, 2014. The event is part of Pro Bowl Week in Honolulu.