A couple of years ago, Seattle Seahawks' Defensive End Michael Bennett had a vision to make Hawaii a destination training location for NFL players from all over the country.
In the offseasons that have followed the Pro Bowl Defensive MVP has made that dream a reality — as the 808 now plays host to dozens of pass rushers from the league looking to improve their skills in the 50th state.
"There hasn't been a gym in Hawaii that's had NFL guys like what we do here at HOP. I think we've had over 30 to 40 guys each year in and out,” Bennett said. “I think to promote Hawaii is just as important as California or Florida or Arizona when it comes to training."
With Hawaii Optimum Performance's NFL Pass-Rush Academy, Kevin Chang and Bennett have found a niche program that's attracted players from near and far.
And for local product, 49er's DeForest Buckner, the camp has given him a chance to return home — and learn from a room full of league veterans.
"Man, learning from all the experience all the veterans have, I'm just soaking all the knowledge in,” Buckner said. “You know, what to do, what not to do, how to take care of your body, what moves work for them, what moves don't work for them and how to really own my own skills, how to master my ability."
But of course, part of the reason the players say they keep coming back to the camp at HOP has much to do with enjoying life outside of the gym.
Seattle's Defensive End Cliff Avril enjoys the island and it’s feel.
"The weather — the weather, and the beaches. The people are nice, well some of the people are nice,” Avril said. “It's just a great environment."
HOP's Kevin Chang told Hawaii News Now they expected an upward of 20 players at this year's camp. In the past, they have brought out names like Jadeveon Clowney and fellow local boy, Manti Teo.
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