Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ex-Montgomery Star Koa Misi Suddenly On NFL Radar

The clock is ticking down now for Koa Misi, only hours away until he is poked and prodded, measured and weighed, inspected to the point that if a NFL team were to ask him to open his mouth to check for cavities, no one would think twice.

It's the 2010 NFL Combine, pro football's version of a beauty contest, where every prospect wants to appear attractive, even down to a big, white toothy smile.

"I'm good to go," said Misi, who starred at Montgomery, then later for SRJC and Utah. "I'm so ready to go."

Misi will leave Friday for the Combine in Indianapolis, a news event in and of itself. It was just five years ago that Misi didn't play football for a year. He wearied of the college recruiting process coming out of Montgomery. He took a break. The NFL, of course, likes its players obsessed, zealots preferably, and it doesn't take lightly or forgets for that matter a premium talent taking a year off from the sport.

"It's probably because I took a year off," Misi said, as to why until very recently he wasn't even on anyone's draft list. "Maybe that's it."

But if a player has talent, the NFL will find him. The league will let bygones be bygones if he possesses the necessary size, speed, power, agility and instincts.

It will nod most favorably that Misi, 6-foot-3, 244 pounds, has been training nine hours a day, six days a week since Jan. 4 at Athletes Performance Institute in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson, one of three such facilities in the U.S. that specializes in the care, feeding and tutoring of professional athletes.

"I've been working out with a lot of prospects down here," Misi said. "A tight end for USC, a defensive end from Washington, a guard from Georgia, a defensive back from Fresno State and a defensive end from Stanford (Eric Long)."

That's the kind of fixated commitment that impresses NFL teams -- and makes them forgive and forget that year off. Intensity, of course, matters little without the skills, and Misi opened a lot of eyes with a stellar Senior Bowl performance in January.

Misi sacked Tim Tebow, Florida's Heisman Trophy winner, playing most of the game as an outside linebacker.

"I thought I did pretty well," Misi said. "I was pretty happy with what I did."

Misi, 23, rarely has been one to march in a one-man parade, sounding off to whomever would listen. Enter Kenny Zuckerman, his agent, who is more than willing to pick up the slack.

"Koa has gone from a player who wasn't even rated to someone who is draftable," Zuckerman said. "With the 3-4 defense so prevalent now in the NFL, the hardest position to fill is the outside linebacker. That guy has to be a special player. He has to be fast enough and quick enough to cover tight ends and running backs coming out of the backfield. But he is also has to be big enough and strong enough to handle those offensive linemen and rush the passer.

"Koa is that guy. He has that ability to coil like a snake and strike. Koa reminds me a lot of a guy I represented last year, David Veikune (Hawaii) who went in the second round. And Koa is even more athletic than David."

Zuckerman is Misi's agent and should talk like that. But Zuckerman is not straying too far from conventional wisdom surrounding Misi. On, Misi is referred to thusly: "Very good football instincts . . . explosive coming off the edge . . . punches lineman coming out to block . . . gets through trash to find the ball . . . very fluid in his drops . . . turns hips and gets deep quickly . . . good ball awareness . . . excellent tackler . . . will be force on special teams . . . plays through the whistle . . . high character player praised by his coaches for work ethic."

"Because there are a lot of juniors coming out this year, Koa will be drafted in the second round," Zuckerman said. "But if this was last year, Koa would be taken in the first round. He's that strong of a player."

Zuckerman is so convinced that Misi has a NFL future that he paid for Misi's entire stay at the API for the last eight weeks. Misi is doing everything to reciprocate, lowering his time in the 40 from 4.6 to 4.5, increasing his bench-press repetitions with 225 pounds from 20 to 25.

It is, however, the Combine. No contact will occur. A player make look like Tarzan but play like Jane. It always has been the knock against the Combine, too much emphasis placed on numbers, with no way to judge instincts and intensity. Misi, as evidenced on game film, has an abundance of both, now that he has settled into the position that feels like a second skin to him.

"I'm going to go back and play linebacker like I did in high school," Misi said. 
"It's what I wanted to do for a while."

Zuckerman said he thinks Misi will fall somewhere between the 50th and 60th pick in the April draft.

"His performance in the Senior Bowl really gave a lot of validity to his talent," Zuckerman said. "I haven't heard a buzz like this on a kid in a long time."

Many miles remain for Misi to make a NFL roster and then to be a contributor. But now the NFL is on Misi's horizon, not some far-off dream, like one day I'll date Jessica Biel, too. Misi now allows himself the momentary luxury to think of where he would like to play in the NFL, with the last team listed as of particular interest to Bay Area fans.

"It doesn't really matter to me where I play but I always wanted to play in San Diego," he said. "I wouldn't mind playing for the Steelers or the Ravens either. And San Francisco, maybe."

No comments:

Post a Comment