Friday, April 30, 2010

Alualu Humble In Arrival

Tyson Alualu’s humble beginnings made it easy for him to accept the insult that he was a reach-pick draft choice. He made it sound as though he welcomes the rebuke.

“It was a shock to my people, my family and me. I was hoping to go late-first. I was projected as a solid second-round pick,” Alualu told reporters on Friday, a few hours after arriving in Jacksonville and ending a journey that begin at four p.m. on Thursday in Hawaii.

The Jaguars’ first-round draft choice is a warm and friendly man who spoke to reporters openly about his energy for the game and his love of family and faith.

“Moving from shelter to shelter, not having the finer things in life; I want to have this opportunity to give back to my family,” Alualu said.

Jaguars guard Vince Manuwai talked last week of knowing Alualu from their days growing up in the Honolulu projects. Alualu lived in three shelters.

“I know him from growing up as a kid. We’re from the same neighborhood,” Manuwai said.

The neighborhood is known as KPT, which is short for Kuhio Park Terrace. Manuwai did not describe it in pleasant terms.

“I know his parents were very guarded. His dad runs security there. I know they fussed on him. They did a great job and he’s at the next level,” Manuwai said of Alualu.

Soon, Alualu will sign a rich contract that’ll guarantee no one in his family will ever again live in a shelter. Good times have arrived for someone who has been described by Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith and Head Coach Jack Del Rio as a good guy.

“I’m here to work hard,” Alualu said. “Most teams talk about my passion for the game. I don’t tell them. They say they see it.”

Smith very clearly saw it and fell in love with it. Alualu’s passion caused him to soar up the Jaguars’ draft board, though he was unaware of it. He considered Dallas, New England and Denver to be the three teams most interested in drafting him.

When he was selected with the 10th overall pick, draft guru Mel Kiper immediately criticized the pick for being a reach. Smith said it wasn’t a reach according to the Jaguars’ draft rankings, as Alualu was the best available player on the Jaguars’ board.

All of that and the flap about the Jaguars not using the pick on favorite-son Tim Tebow is in the past. What’s ahead, beginning with this weekend’s mini-camp, is about what Alualu does on the field.

With the Jaguars, he’ll be a featured player, which he wasn’t at Cal. Gone are his days as a read-and-react defensive end in a 3-4 scheme. With the Jaguars, Alualu will be used as a penetrating, disruptive, three-technique defensive tackle.

“I’m definitely excited about that, not reading so much but just exploding and getting after it; penetrating and getting into to the backfield. I can’t wait to get started,” he said.

Gone, also, are his days of wearing number 44, the family number, as he called it. He’ll wear number 93 with the Jaguars.

“My wife and our two kids are really excited about making Jacksonville our new home,” he said.

“You watch him since high school and, all of a sudden, you’re playing with him,” Manuwai added.

Alualu’s was a very long journey.

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Paea On Watch List For Lombardi Award

Oregon State senior defensive tackle Stephen Paea was named to the watch list for the Lombardi Award on Thursday.

That annual award goes to the top down lineman end to end, offense or defense. Linebackers are eligible if they line up five yards or less off the ball.

The preliminary list comes from being a first-team all-conference player last season. The list will be added to once the preseason honors come out.

Paea was a first-team All-Pacific-10 Conference selection last season, and won the Morris Trophy as the best conference defensive lineman voted on by the offensive linemen.

He had 43 tackles, three quarterback sacks and four forced fumbles last season.

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Fehokos Import Maori Culture

Sam Fehoko bent his knees, thrust his hands emphatically through the air and called out the words to accompany the traditional Polynesian haka, all in near-perfect synchronization with his father and two younger brothers.

The four Fehokos’ performance temporarily interrupted the final minutes of Saturday’s autograph session following the Texas Tech football team’s spring game as fans formed a wide circle four-deep in places to watch.

Each time Sam’s parents, Linda and Vili, visit Lubbock, they bring elements of Hawaiian and Maori culture with them. In the past that’s been limited to a few flower leis. This time, though, they wanted to do more.

“We thought, it’s a new year, so let’s give them life,” Linda said. “This is the way we share our heart, our ‘mana,’ energy. And hopefully that good energy resonates throughout the team.”

Sam, who grew up in Hawaii, hosted some 20 relatives who arrived in Lubbock for the annual scrimmage that concludes the Red Raiders’ spring practice.

It was a rare visit for the junior linebacker, who doesn’t get to see his family much during the season and only goes home at spring break and before Tech football’s summer workouts. His parents and brothers V.J. and Breiden flew in from Honolulu, while other relatives traveled from as far as Fiji and as near as Euless.

Linda and Vili brought bags of coconut leaves from Hawaii and with other family members spend Thursday and Friday nights braiding the leaves into wide-brimmed hats and more than 100 headbands to hand out at Jones AT&T Stadium. As the players mingled with fans after the game, the Fehokos handed out their headbands until each football player wore one. Then they began distributing the pieces to anyone who passed by.

The coconut tree, Linda said, symbolizes life for the Maori, the broad term for people who are indigenous to Hawaii and many other Pacific islands. Ancient people used its fruit for food, its leafs to build homes, its trunks to hollow into canoes.

“And it’s a good luck omen and a symbol of the warrior heart,” Linda said. “It’s life. It’s all about life, energy, good karma.”

The Fehokos also brought lava-lava, big squares of colorful fabric, the football players tied in the traditional way around their waists, and flowers to string into leis: pink and purple orchids, soft white tuberose, fragrant tea leaf. Sam wore four stands of tea leafs as he posed for pictures with fans, but handed other leis to teammates who already sported the coconut wreaths.

“Leis are symbolic in our culture,” Sam said. “They’re a sign of welcoming, of affection toward another person.”

After giving away all the leis, headbands, lava-lava and assorted necklaces, Vili called his sons together near the north end zone. Vili performs as the Warrior at the University of Hawaii, and has appeared at the Pro Bowl, on Jimmy Kimmel Live and on ABC’s “Full House.”

On Saturday, he and his three youngest sons performed a haka, the Maori term for traditional dances, called “Ka Mate.”

Hakas have become popular warm ups for Polynesian athletes. A rugby team in New Zealand has performed Ka Mate for decades, the University of Hawaii football created a haka in the native Hawaiian language and the Euless Trinity High School football team, which has several athletes of Polynesian decent, performs Ka Mate at its games.

“It’s to prepare young men to go to battle, to go to war,” Vili said. “Ka Mate means ‘to kill.’ We performed it as an honor for our son and his football team.”

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

High Hopes For Helu

There were moments last year when Roy Helu looked so effortlessly evasive, he kept you from remembering he was playing hurt.

There was the 63-yard burst through the heart of Oklahoma's highly-rated run defense in the second quarter of Nebraska's thrilling upset last November, when he cut sharply and accelerated to full speed before the Sooners could react.

A week later, he had that 30-yard, victory-sealing sideline scamper against Kansas, bursting by diving Jayhawks on a slow-developing, third-down toss play. Helu scored the game's final touchdown later on the drive, wincing in pain and clutching his shoulder as he trotted off the field.

The Kansas State game sticks out, too. Helu's longest run was 18 yards, when he tripped over Ricky Henry's foot at the line of scrimmage, but gathered himself, angled toward the sideline and stiff-armed a Wildcat free safety on his way out of bounds. He finished that contest just five short of a third straight 100-yard game.

Yes, Helu had his moments. There's no denying that.

It makes one ponder the season-long playmaking potential of a healthy Helu, the shifty and explosive I-back who tallied 1,147 rushing yards despite an injury-filled junior season.

But here's the reality check: Helu won't ever be 100 percent during the season. No top running back is.

His objective as a senior veteran is to figure out how to make contributions - like he did against Oklahoma, Kansas and Kansas State - every time out. Even when the pain seems unbearable.

"When he put his mind to the fact that he was going to go out and play no matter what, he was pretty good," running backs coach Tim Beck said. "In fairness to Roy, it was the first time he was a full-time, 20- to 25-carry guy. And I think it shocked him maybe a little bit."

So much so, that Helu went missing a couple of times last year.

He had five carries, 24 yards and two lost fumbles against Iowa State. He ran seven times for 24 yards the next week against Baylor.

In Nebraska's final two games of the season, Helu ran the ball 13 times for 36 yards. That's when Rex Burkhead took over, carrying the ball 27 total times against Texas and Arizona.

"I think (Helu) was trying," Beck said. "I think he wanted to succeed. He was pushing himself. ... I think he worried about the injury some.

"He's got to learn that he's never going to be completely healthy."

And that includes next season, even though Helu likely won't have to endure the same physical consequences of being the 2009 workhorse. His 220 carries last year were fourth highest in the Big 12.

But because Helu already has two capable ball carriers - Burkhead and sophomore Dontrayevous Robinson - alongside him in the top I-back rotation, the workload should decrease. Burkhead proved himself after returning from a broken foot last year. Robinson, who had 39 carries for 165 yards as a freshman, is developing into an all-around back.

The hope is that fewer carries will help Helu find more consistency as an every-down game-changer.

Beck has also encouraged Helu to tweak his approach at the point of attack. Helu should be more decisive early, Beck said.

It's all worked so far this spring. Senior Niles Paul said Helu's been playing well.

"I see him out there, he's running hard, making those cuts," Paul said. "He's back to the old Roy Helu that everybody loves."

And as a result, Burkhead's still characterizing the No. 1 I-back spot as Helu's to lose.

"It's his starting job and we're all competing for it," Burkhead said. "It's his right now. He's kind of where we want to be."

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Harvey Langi Impresses @ L.A. NIKE Camp

Harvey Langi has already established himself as the top prospect in his home state of Utah. After an impressive performance at L.A.'s NIKE Camp, he is quickly establishing himself as one of the top running backs in the nation in the 2011 class.

2011 HS Football Rankings (full list):
Pos: RB Pos Rank: #10 Pos Rating: Player Evaluation:
 Tackle-Breaking Ability
 Breakaway Speed
Langi is a powerful running back with excellent balance, and he does a good job of keeping his feet clear of traffic on the ground, whether it's by a quick hop or a cut around diving arm tackles. He is a big back that smaller defenders have trouble wrapping up with the combination of his size and balance as they tend to slip off of him. Is more likely to knock a defender down than out run one, but can avoid traffic with good vision- Scott Kennedy

Vuna Tuihalamaka Signs w/ the Indianapolis Colts

Former Arizona Linebacker Vuna Tuihalamaka signed a free agent contract with the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

Tuihalamaka was a juco player who played sparingly but became a force to reckon with his senior season, his first as a full-time starter in FBS. Teams didn't have much film on him but liked the way he had a nose for where the ball was going.

Player Bio:

Arizona: 1L... The eldest of three Tuihalamakas on the club, Vuna is expected to start at middle linebacker in 2009 after a solid year in '08 following transfer from junior college... Came in game-ready and played in all 13 contests, finishing with 23 tackles, a dozen of those in backup play... Also had eight hits on kicking units... Earned coaches' citations for special teams player of the week honors against California and BYU... Enrolled in January '08...

El Camino College: First-team J.C. Grid-Wire All-America in 2006 as sophomore at California state juco champion El Camino Community College... 148 tackles in 14 games, with 14.5 for losses... Mission Conference national division Defensive Player of the Year for coach John Featherstone, 1st-team inside linebacker... SuperPrep Juco 100, No. 23 prospect... California Community College athlete of the month for October 2006... Season-high 15 tackles vs. Cerritos... 18 tackles as a freshman, with 2 TFL, 1 sack and four PBUs...

High School: Hawthorne, Calif., High School, 2005...

Personal: Academic major is sociology.... Attended Pima College in Tucson in fall 2007... Cousin of UA brothers, defensive end Apaiata and tackle Sione Tuiahalamaka... Recruited by coach Mike Tuiasosopo...

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BYU's Harvey Unga Hoping to Return From Honor Code Violation

Brigham Young coach Bronco Mendenhall says suspended running back Harvey Unga wants to return to school "in the most desperate way."

Unga, the Cougars' all-time leading rusher with 3,455, skipped the NFL draft to return for his senior year. But he was kicked out of school for violating the school's honor code.
"Harvey's first choice, and what he's fighting diligently for in trying to express to the administration at BYU, is that he wants to be back," Mendenhall said during a Mountain West Conference teleconference. "This goes back to the decision he made (last January) to not declare for the (NFL) draft early and stay at BYU."
His case will be heard by the school's dean. The school has specific criteria for student behavior, including rules against the use of alcohol and tobacco and premarital sex.

Unga has been dating BYU women's basketball player Keilani Moeaki. She  also voluntarily withdrew from school Friday due to an honor code violation. The pair were engaged last year before calling the wedding off last spring. Unga recently confirmed they are still dating.

If he is refused readmittance into school,  his options are to transfer to another school or enter the NFL's supplemental draft.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Quintet of Stars Leads Grant Union

After falling one point shy of likely having an opportunity to defend their California state championship (in the CIF Open Division), the Grant Union High School (Sacramento) football team isn't asking questions.

They haven't asked why they couldn't convert a first-and-goal situation into points. Why a game-winning field goal attempt sailed wide. Or why they were denied an invitation to a 2009 California State Bowl game. There's no point to these queries.

"We are the answer," defensive coordinator Reggie Harris said. It's what the Pacer players chant at the conclusion of every offseason huddle, every workout concluded in the Grant weight room and every time someone brings up the disappointing end to last season. And as the answer, they are looking ahead.

Over the last four years, the Pacers have been a competitive force in high school football. Harris believes that in 2006, the Pacers were arguably the best team in the state, but they were overshadowed by perennial power De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) when it came time for state bowl game selections. Two years later, the Pacers stormed to an undefeated record and a 25-20 state title win over another California power, Long Beach Poly. And despite falling short of a return trip to the title game last year -- which has some wondering whether the Pacers have enough to keep them among the state's elite in 2010 -- Harris says the team is still on track.

"We are the answer," he repeated. "That's the bottom line. There are high expectations for this team going back to state and winning it this year."

For Grant, everything starts at the top with Mike Alberghini, a Hall of Fame caliber coach preparing to begin his 42nd season at the school, the past 20 of those as head coach.

Each year, Alberghini undertakes the difficult task of building a championship-level team in the heart of northern Sacramento's troubled Del Paso Heights area. It's a region more known for poverty and rampant gang violence than college scholarship recipients. And if churning out successful student athletes and community stars under such conditions isn't enough, Alberghini must also work within the confines of public school, meaning he is unable to go out and recruit players like private schools.
Still, working against the odds, both Harris and Alberghini have made tremendous strides. This season, they will have the opportunity to watch five of the best defensive players in the state -- and it just so happens that they'll all be breaking the same huddle.

Even Alberghini, able to cut to the heart of any issue in a no-nonsense way that Bill Parcells would envy, allows himself to be momentarily caught up in the idea of unleashing a nearly unmatchable amount of defense talent at the opposition this season. For a team that pitched eight shutouts in 13 games last season, getting five starters back who will eventually sign with FBS programs is almost unfair.

"I can't ever remember having five kids this good," he said. "We have some pieces that could make it a pretty nice puzzle."

The Pieces

Just as everything Grant football starts with Alberghini, everything Pacer defense begins with defensive tackle Viliami Moala, a 6-3, 300 pound wrecking ball in the middle of the defensive line. Already holding scholarship offers from most of the Pac-10, the man known as "V" could become one of the most highly recruited line prospects in the country.

"Dominating, aggressive, relentless," Harris said about Moala. "It's a blessing that we have special athletes such as 'V' because he's a leader. It makes our job easier. He leads by example and everyone else falls in place. There are no inconsistencies."

"He has speed, athleticism, size and strength," Alberghini said. "A defensive tackle that requires a double team -- that he can sometimes beat by himself -- is very nice to have. For a while he just got by being strong. But he's developed a little bit of a motor and some anger. He gets frustrated with being double teamed now and he has that mean edge."

While Moala may be a big cog in the Grant defense, he's not a big talker. He has gone out of his way to deflect all recruiting questions, and instead focuses on what he and his teammates have an opportunity to accomplish.

"College is the next step, but expectations are high for us this year," he said.

Moala in the middle would be enough to boost any high school defense, but Harris has the ability to lean on Darryl Paulo in at middle linebacker as well. Paulo, a 6-3, 245 pound three-year starter, says he loves nothing more than playing downhill and stopping the run. A converted offensive guard, he began playing middle linebacker last season and was quick to adjust to the new position.
"He's another leader, a warrior," Harris said. "If Grant High School was an island, he'd be king of the island. He controls the momentum of the defense and is a very intelligent player."

Paulo, who has garnered interest from much of the Pac-10 conference and an offer from Washington State, said the switch to linebacker agrees with his football disposition. "I get a lot more freedom there," he said. "I love running around the field and hitting people."
And it doesn't stop there for Grant.

"What's really nice about our defense is that, just like in baseball, you want to be strong right up the middle, and we are really strong there," Alberghini said. His "last line of defense," Alberghini added, is free safety James Sample.

"[Sample] is a very competitive kid and another leader who doesn't make excuses for anything. He just gets the job done," Harris said.

Sample currently has offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Washington and Washington State, although Harris is surprised that the list isn't growing by the minute.

"It doesn't matter who has offered him so far," Harris said. "The question is going to be posed for coaches at the next level. They're going to say to themselves, 'Why didn't I offer this kid?' He's such a dominating force. They can either get him or play against him. He's going to be a kid just like [former USC Trojan] Taylor Mays once he is able to bulk up and get stronger in a college program."
Perhaps no player on the Pacer defense is poised to take advantage of the strength up the middle more than defensive end Faigame "Puka" Lopa. Coming off a 100-tackle, 20-sack season in 2009, Lopa currently holds scholarship offers from Arizona, Washington State, Washington and San Diego State. A 6-2, 250 pound terror off the edge, Harris is excited to see what he does as a senior.
"He's a mirror image of 'V' in that he's non-stop and consistent," Harris said. "He's rangy and can move sideline to sideline as a defensive end."

Lopa, like the rest of the Grant team, has only the goal of a state championship this year with an all-star cast of teammates.

"I started thinking about this during my freshman year," he said of playing with his fellow seniors.

"There's no feeling like playing with kids who you grew up together with in this neighborhood. It's amazing to me."

But what might be the most amazing feat of all is that with those four seniors headlining the defense, perhaps the best prospect is junior cornerback Shaquille Thompson. The younger brother of former Grant Union and University of California star Syd'Quan Thompson, he is coming off a sophomore season in which he rushed for 364 yards and seven touchdowns, caught passes for 101 yards, another score and recorded 74 tackles, three sacks and three interceptions on defense. For good measure, he averaged just over 40 yards on seven kickoff returns.

"Last season, he could have been our starting running back. This year, he could end up being our starting quarterback. He's a man amongst boys out there. He has great size and is the quickest guy on the team. At his track meets, he's just running away from people. He's the real deal," Alberghini said.
Thompson, who hesitated in stepping into a leadership role last season, deferring to more experienced teammates like tailback Devontae Butler, will have an opportunity to show what he can do out front, on both sides of the ball. And the increased role will likely garner him even more attention and offers at the collegiate level.

"Right now, Cal, talks to me and Washington a little bit," Thompson said. "I'm thinking that I might follow my brother to Cal, but then I might have to think about that. He already set his name there and I might want to go somewhere else to do my own thing."
What's certain is that Thompson is about to do his own thing this season, perhaps filling the team's biggest potential hole, at quarterback.

"I can do a lot of things if I put my mind to it and practice a lot," he said. "This year I feel I can do more to compete with the seniors -- to be at their level."

And thanks to five of the top defensive players in the state, Grant football could reach a level this season matched only by 2008's title team. With an all-state caliber player in every level of the defense, there is no limit to what this team is capable of achieving.

"All five of those kids are great team leaders and great human beings," Alberghini said. "Sometimes schools are blessed with two or maybe even three at a time. We're blessed with five."

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Alaska Standout Junior Aumavae Headed to The Dallas Cowboys

Former Palmer football standout Junior Aumavae is headed to the Dallas Cowboys after agreeing to a three-year deal.

Aumavae is a 6-foot-2, 330-pound defensive tackle who garnered first-team all-conference honors for a pair of Division II programs during a stellar college football career. He was seen as an "under the radar" prospect by NFL scouts and a potential pick during the 2010 NFL Draft.

Aumavae was not selected during the NFL's three-day, seven-round selection ceremony. But just minutes after the final player was selected on Saturday, Aumavae's phone started to ring.

Dallas signed Aumavae as a priority rookie free agent. He will report to the team's rookie minicamp starting next week.

The Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns and Dallas Cowboys were all interested in signing Aumavae. Then Aumavae's agent called with news that Dallas was ready to make an offer.

Shortly after committing to the team, Aumavae also received a call from a Dallas scout.

"He said I have a real good chance to anchor their nose position," Aumavae said. "They were very excited and they welcomed me to the team."

Aumavae is the first former Palmer football player to get the chance to play in the NFL.

He was named Alaska's top large-schools lineman after his senior year at Palmer High. He was a first-team All-Railbelt Conference and All-State selection on both offense and defense as a junior and a senior, even though his football career didn't begin until his sophomore season.

As a college player, Aumavae earned first-team all-conference honors at Western Washington and Minnesota State-Mankato.

Longtime Palmer head coach Rod Christiansen was elated when Aumavae told him he'd agreed to a deal with Dallas.

"He's a real deserving guy," Christiansen said. "He had the desire to stick with it. His focus was on wanting to see if he can make it."

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Irish’s Manti Te'o Making Great Strides on Defense

Crunching linebacker assuming leadership role for Notre Dame in 2nd season

On a tersely cool Saturday morning, Manti Te'o absently lifted one knee after another, warm-ups for the warm-ups.

His gaze wandered and then went to Notre Dame teammate Theo Riddick. More specifically: the red beanie on Riddick's gold helmet. Technically the cap serves as a stop sign, ensuring no one will hit Riddick as he recovers from shoulder surgery. It meant something else to Te'o.

"You look like a ninja turtle," he said.

The prized sophomore-to-be linebacker then smiled slyly. The goofiness is ever-present. So is the earnestness, as evidenced by the tattoo on his left arm that honors his family and culture. So is the ability, as evidenced by Te'o obliterating a ball-=carrier on one practice snap last weekend.

Notre Dame may not have all questions answered by its spring game Saturday, but the coalescing of Manti Te'o's many parts into a formidable whole won't be an issue much longer.

"In his own mind and our coaches' and myself, (he's) living up to some of the expectations that everybody had coming in, as one of the premier defensive high school players in the country," Irish coach Brian Kelly said.

"He can be a great player. He has a chance. And he's showing some signs of that — his recognition, his leadership. It's exciting to watch him grow. He's really growing quickly in a very short period of time."

True, it was just late March when Kelly flatly said Te'o wasn't very good as a freshman. And early in spring, Te'o looked understandably hesitant relaying calls in a new defense.

And after the big practice hit last weekend, Te'o got smoked by tight end Kyle Rudolph for a touchdown catch. It isn't an awakening worth a hallelujah chorus just yet. But it's a start.

"Last year? I was just not confident," Te'o said. "One of the things this year that I wanted to improve on was my confidence, just trusting my instincts. Most of the time, I second-guess my instincts, and that's what gets me into trouble. I just have to tell my legs to move when my instincts say move."

Still, Te'o ranked fourth on the team with 63 tackles in 2009 despite not starting until October and, as Kelly said, "guessing" all year.

So the raw material was there. The next stage was taking charge of the Irish defense, a role that requires equal parts comprehension and personality.

"He's energizing, he is a positive person, he's a character with character," defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said. "He can absorb the information in the room and come out to the practice field and put it into action. And with all that said, he still has a long way to go."

How long? It may be impossible to tell, as no one is willing to set a bar in this case as Te'o continues to advance quickly exponentially.

"I don't think you can put a ceiling on any athlete, because I think it's up to them," Te'o said. "Like my dad always says, shoot for the stars. There's no ceiling. Just every day come out and do the best you can. What you put in is what you get out."

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Raiders Sign UDFA FB Tonga of BYU

The Raiders have signed FB Manase Tonga out of BYU according Silver and Black Pride. The undrafted free agent was considered a priority free agent by many. I had him as the top blocking fullback and my number two priority among all undrafted free agents for the Raiders to consider.

And it seemed like a natural fit for the Raiders considering Tonga grew up in nearby San Mateo. It was no doubt was an easy decision for him to make when his home town team, Oakland Raiders came calling. And from the sounds of it, the decision to make the call was also an easy decision for the Raiders as Tonga becomes the first UDFA signing by the team since the draft ended a few hours ago.

In college, Tonga was oftenheld in high regard. Here is what was said about him in the Deseret News:
"At 6-foot and 248 pounds, Tonga is a devastating blocker with powerful drive in his lower body. As a lead blocker in Robert Anae's offense, he was fearless in tracking down and putting a bead on linemen, linebackers, safeties and corners for Harvey Unga. His pass protection is something Anae and position coach Lance Reynolds use as an example, a how-to tape"

The article also points out that just a year ago he was at a low point in his life. He was out of shape and almost dropped out of college and abandoned his dream of playing in the NFL. His onlyother blemish was having been arrested in 2007 due to a warrant out for the arrest of because he had not paid an $82 ticket.

If a little bit of down-on-his-luck and a traffic ticket are the only reasons he dropped out of the draft then that even speaks louder about the level of talent he possesses. But you needn't tell me how talented he is. I have seen him play. You needn't tell his opponents how talented he is, they have been hit by him.

This may just be the best acquisition the Raiders have made this offseason. There were a few great draft picks but Tonga was worthy of one of them so getting him as an undrafted free agent is a big time move.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Manuwai on Alualu

G Vince Manuwai's comments on first round pick Tyson Alualu

(what do you think of having another player here from Hawaii?) “It’s great. It’s not only that he’s from Hawaii but I actually know him personally and his family and friends that married into the family, and I saw him growing up as a little kid. Like I said not only him being from Hawaii but I know him personally and we’re from the same neighborhood.”

(where was the neighborhood?) “We lived in the projects called Kuhio Park Terrace, KPT for short.”
(is this in Honolulu?) “Yeah it’s in Honolulu, in Kali’i.”

(they have projects in Honolulu?) “Yeah.”

(what can you tell us about him and about growing up in KPT?) “I never saw him play or anything but I know watching him as a little kid I know his parents were real guarded. He was probably the only boy maybe or two, but I would see him out but every time I would see him he was always getting ready for football practice or training so he was never hanging around outside of the projects. I know his dad runs maybe security there so there was a lot that he could even if he left the house as far as getting into the gangs or whatever. So I know they were really focused on him, making sure he was getting his sports done and all that and it shows they did a great job and he’s at the next level being a top-10 pick.”

(how old were you when you first met him?) “I was in high school and I know he was in elementary going through the Pop Warner stages, but my fondest memory remembering was always getting ready to practice. I know his dad would always take him. He was known in KPT to always do football and that’s the only thing he focused on.”

(what was your feeling yesterday when you saw the reaction of the local fans being aghast at this pick because they didn’t know who is was and there was so much criticism of this pick?) “I guess when you get the media attention, you know how that is, they’re talking about so much about a lot of players and they’ve never heard of Tyson Alualu and all of a sudden you draft him and then people get shocked. Gene Smith, it’s his job. They did a great job of drafting last year and doing a great job this year drafting. It’s tough I guess, but a lot of it is because of the media attention. If they were talking about Tyson Alualu the whole time, would they have been more shocked? Probably not but they’re just shocked because I guess he never had a lot of media attention. But on Gene Smith’s board there was availability I guess, and they liked the way he played and his motor knowing he can come in and do some things.”

(what do you think the reaction will be after fans see him play?) “He has work on his shoulders and what he has to do to come in here and play in that top ten pick. I know he was probably top five in the D-tackles so after the first two guys, pretty much the last three in the top five that’s when you start breaking down, is he a character guy? So to me it doesn’t separate them, so for Gene to draft him that was the best decision.”

(he’ll have to always live with that stigma of ‘he was the guy they drafted instead of Tim Tebow;’ is that unfair?) “In my mind they weren’t going to take Tebow. So unless they traded up somewhere around the top five but I didn’t think at the 10th pick they were going to take Tebow. With Alualu at a young age, helping out with Big John (Henderson), Terrance Knighton, he’s going to come in and help them plug up some holes and get some sacks, crash the pocket.”

(will you help him get acclimated to Jacksonville and explain this Tebow thing to him?) “Oh, definitely. I never thought they would have taken him at the 10th pick for Tebow. I guess they’re more used to Alualu playing more I guess, but that’s not my job. I just hope he knows what’s on his shoulders. I know that he’s a hard worker. I’d seen him as a kid. He never spoke a lot, just did what he was supposed to, what his parents told him to do and that’s what he’s been doing. I went to school with his sisters. They’re a couple years younger, two of them. I never saw him as a kid that walked around and had a big chest or nothing. He just played; a real quite kid.”

(do you think he knows what is on his shoulders with the Tebow stuff?) “No, I don’t think he’s even worried about. He got drafted and now he knows what he’s got to do to come in and start working hard and get into that playbook, like they say as a rookie, get your contract done and that’s probably what he’s worried about. He can’t control the Tebow situation.”

(why do you think there are so many Samoans doing well in the NFL?) “I don’t know. I guess as years go by you learn and learn more about it. I guess it’s one of those things that you can’t get enough now. Some of them realizing I guess what you can do more of. My years, I watching the Noga brothers, Jesse Sapolu. It’s just one of those you just start picking up on it. You’ve got more things now in high school and college. Coming out of high school I never had clinics and now you got so many clinics you can go to and develop your talents a lot faster. Back then a lot of Samoans couldn’t pay for clinics or work with somebody. Now maybe a lot of the Samoans are giving back. I remember Troy (Polamalu), Chris Fuamatu Ma’afala back in Hawaii were doing clinics. Now we’ve drafted Tyson maybe I’ll talk to him about going back to our old neighborhood and doing some clinics.”

(does Chris Fuamatu Ma’afala know Alualu?) “No. Fu grew up in a different projects. Me and Tyson grew up in the same projects.”

(did they go to the same high school?) “No, he went to a different high school. He went to St. Louis where Jimmy Chang went, our quarterback, back in the University of Hawaii.”

(Alualu went to St. Louis High School with Olin Kreutz) “And Fu. Fu went to St. Louis also.”

(anybody else come out of the high school that you know of?) “Dominic Raiola, Olin Kreutz.”

(on it being a big time high school) “Yeah. They won 13 prep state champions in a row.”

(did you go to St. Louis or a different high school?) “No, I went to a different high school. It was about 10 minutes away. I had the possibility but I went to public high school.”

(when he gets here, what will you tell him?) “Just tell him congratulations. We’re making our people proud. It’s weird, like I said, you watch him from when you’re in high school and then all of a sudden you’re playing with him now. It’s different. You see him as a little kid but now I can’t see him as a little kid, he’s a grown man now. So definitely come in and just say hey, just hit the books and don’t try to do too much so fast. There’s a lot of pressure of course with being a top 10 pick, but try not to let it eat away at him. Sometimes when they come in that young they end up burning out but I know work ethic since he was a kid. He’s a hard worker. That’s one thing I know Gene loves about him is his character and maybe that separates the last three D-tackles they had was the character issue. That’s one of the things they wanted to clean up was the character issues and that’s definitely why they probably went with him. And Gene likes his motor. Just coming in and just say, ‘Hey man, just do your job. I was a rookie.’ And some things we’ll talk about later I guess. I’ll give him my phone number also and say, ‘Hey, give me a call.’ “

(is there a big Samoan population in Hawaii?) “Yeah, real big. A lot of people are telling me, ‘Oh, another Hawaiian person.’ But a lot of times they tend to forget. See, I’m Hawaiian-Samoan. He’s just full Samoan so a lot of them tend to forget that when they come from Hawaii they assume he’s another Hawaiian person. So I have to correct a lot of them. People ask, ‘what’s the difference?’ I say there’s Hawaii and there’s Samoa. So I tell them no, he’s Samoan. They say, ‘Is there a difference?’ I say ‘No, he’s a great kid. Hawaiians and Samoans are pretty much the same as far as mannerism and stuff.’ You guys get to see when he comes in. He’s a quiet kid, kind of shy but I know when he steps on the football field there’s something that turns in him. That’s pretty much what I know about him.”

(you mentioned you’re Hawaiian-Samoan. Does that mean one of your parents is Hawaiian and both his parents are Samoan? Is that the difference?) “Yeah. My mom is half Hawaiian, half Samoan. My dad was three-quarter Samoan and a quarter white. Where we lived in the projects there are more population of Samoans.”

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Rams Take Illini Tight End Hoomanawanui

One of the many fifth round selections for the Rams has been chosen, as the Rams selected MIchael Hoomanawanui in the 5th round (their first selection). Hoom' (which I'm going to call because his last name is a monster to type) is a Tight End from Illinois.
Here is what rivals had to say about him:
A thickly built tight end who showcases good bend and flexibility off the snap, Hoomanawanui gets into his routes quickly but isn't explosive downfield. He isn't going to threaten the seam vertically and has a tendency to drift in and out of his routes.
Seems like he is a good blocker and possesses good strength in that regard, and they have high marks for his awareness in the red zone. The Rams needed a tight end, but to be honest, I don't think this is the type of player that would have best suited. Daniel Fells still seems like the go to guy for passing, but Hoom' probably will best be suited as the second tight end, if he meets the Rams expectations, which by all purposes he should.

"Honestly, it's a great feeling," said Hoomanawanui, a 6-foot-5, 270-pound Bloomington, Ill., native.

He missed four games last season with an ankle injury and caught only 10 passes for 114 yards. His junior season was far more productive with 25 receptions for 312 yards and two touchdowns.

"It was in the back of my head," he said of his senior season. "Coaches told me I was going to be all right. Family and friends kept pushing me."

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Shawn Lauvao Selected by The Cleveland Browns in Third Round

Shawn Lauvao was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft with the 92nd overall pick

Lauvao has been a powerful offensive lineman for the Arizona State Sun Devils.

Playing in 42 games and making 33 consecutive starts to close out his career, Lauvao has been ASU's most consistent and experienced guards throughout the past three years.

Standing at 6'3" and weighing 315 lbs., his big stature will be a big contribution to the struggling Cleveland Browns. He shows great agility and quickness with his big frame and will fit in nicely with the rebuilding Browns team.

Having starting experience at guard, left tackle, and right tackle will give the Browns some options as to where he will fit in best.

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So You've Drafted Tony Moeaki: A New Owner's Guide

Congratulations! You've just made the wonderful decision to draft Tony Moeaki! Like most new Moeaki owners, you're no doubt filled with questions about your new family member. We here at Black Heart Gold Pants will try our best to answer any questions you might have.

We drafted Tony Moeaki. That's a good thing, right? It certainly is, just as long as you pay no attention to that giant honking IF: his injury status.

Yeah, what's the deal with all the injuries? First, a quick rundown: During the fourth game of his junior year of 2007, Moeaki simultaneously suffered a dislocated elbow and a broken wrist, injuries similar to what befell Andrew Bogut. The rehab kept him out of action for the rest of the season and spring ball, then in 2008 (his second try at a junior year), he broke his foot during spring practices. That nagged at him for the entire year, causing lingering leg problems and eventually requiring a second off-season surgery. Also, he suffered two concussions during '08.

Then, sure enough, Moeaki missed three games this season with another ankle injury, though the third missed game was Arkansas State; Moeaki probably would have played if it were a Big Ten opponent. He shined from then on, though, displaying his athleticism with two long-YACed touchdowns against Michigan and a gorgeous touchdown catch in the back corner of the end zone at Wisconsin. Those are on this highlight reel, but mind the language in the music; I think we caught an effenheimer in there.

So should we expect more injuries? Eh, tough to say. None of his injuries were affecting him terribly by the end of the year, and the only thing on the list of injuries that would be terribly relevant going forward would probably be the concussions, and even then, Tony Mo's not that far out of the norm for the NFL these days (a fact that makes us cringe, but it is what it is, we suppose).

Fine. Let's say he stays healthy. What kind of player do we have? Hoo boy. We realize we're homers here, but there's a reason why Moeaki was so highly regarded coming out of high school. He is not only a superb athlete, but one of the better blocking TEs in the draft. There aren't really any holes in his game (except, of course, whether he can play or not). His routes are crisp, his top end speed is more than adequate, he seals the edge beautifully, and he's a nice guy off the field. If he'd been healthy the whole time, he would have A) graduated last year, and B) probably been drafted a lot higher than 93rd.

So is it fair to compare him to Tony Gonzalez, like we're already doing? Of course not. Tony Gonzalez is this generation's best tight end, and it's not even close. Gonzalez and Moeaki have the same first name, but still. What Moeaki does have is the physical talent to stick around in the NFL for a long time. If, of course, he stays healthy.

And what if he doesn't stay healthy? Well, you can't say nobody warned you.

Will Tony Moeaki be awesome? We'd better hope so, because after his time at Iowa, a successful NFL career would be proof that we do, in fact, live in a just universe.

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Washington DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim Taken by Philly

Washington defensive end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim has been selected by the Philadelphia Eagles.

Te'o-Nesheim was taken with the 22nd pick of the third round on Friday night. He was the 86th overall selection, coming seven picks after former Washington teammate Donald Butler was selected by San Diego.

Te'o-Nesheim was projected to be a third- or fourth-round pick and has been praised by coaches and scouts for his nonstop effort on the field. He is Washington's career leader in sacks with 30 and had 11 in his senior season.

Miami Dolphins Select Koa Misi w/ The 40th Overall Pick

With the 40th pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins have selected Utah outside linebacker Koa Misi.

Misi was a defensive end in Utah but will transition to linebacker in Miami's defense. Note that Mike Mayock does believe Misi could transition to inside linebacker as well as outside linebacker in this defense. More versatility for the Dolphins.

Solid pick. I like it.

Below is Koa Misi's scouting report from
Outstanding motor and gives excellent effort --- Very athletic --- Quick and agile with great balance --- Super explosive with a burst --- Terrific strength --- Uses his hands well --- Comfortable in space --- Appears to have fluid hips --- A hard worker --- Versatile --- Still has a lot of upside.

Just average size --- Questionable instincts --- Has trouble getting off blocks --- Not a great run defender --- Inconsistent --- Minor durability concerns --- Mediocre sack production --- May not have a  true position.

2010 NFL Draft Recap of 1st Round

If you missed the 1st Round of the 2010 NFL Draft, here is a quick recap of the two Polynesians who went in the 1st round. Tyson Alualu - DE - California & Mike Iupati - OG - Idaho.

Tyson Alualu: Jacksonville Jaguars NFL Draft Selection 2010
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Mike Iupati: San Francisco 49ers NFL Draft Selection 2010
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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Iupati Becomes Second Highest Pick Ever From Idaho

Mike Iupati has become the highest draft pick in 43 years from the University of Idaho.

The burly offensive lineman was selected with the 17th pick in the first round of the NFL draft Thursday night by the San Francisco 49ers.

Iupati is the highest pick from Idaho since Ray McDonald was the 13th taken in the first round by the Washington Redskins in 1967.

The 6-foot-5, 331-pound Iuapti paved the way for the Vandals turnaround season in 2009, when Idaho went 9-5 and won the Humanitarian Bowl. Iupati was named a first-team All-American by The Associated Press among a slew of other honors.

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Jaguars Draft St. Louis Grad Tyson Alualu

Cal Defensive End Chosen With No. 10 NFL Pick

Saint Louis School graduate and California Defensive End Tyson Alualu received the call in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday from the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The 6 foot 3 inch tall, 295-pound All-Pac 10 player collected 188 tackles and 17 sacks in his Golden Bear career.

The Honolulu-born player is not the only Jaguar with ties to the islands.

The Jaguars drafted University of Hawaii offensive lineman Vince Manuwai.Alualu received the call in front of friends and family at the Kuhio Park Terrace Church.

The new NFL player joins Herman Wedemyer, Al Harris, Russ Francis, Chris Naeole and Ashley Lelie as the only Hawaii high school graduates selected in the first round of the draft.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Iupati is The Talk of The NFL Draft

The kid who didn’t get much notice coming out of Western High School in Anaheim four years ago is creating quite a stir heading into the NFL draft.

Mike Iupati has been one of the hottest topics on the eve of Thursday’s first round, which will be televised live on ESPN beginning at 4:30 p.m. (PDT).

The 6-foot-5, 331-pound offensive guard, who was an All-American at the University of Idaho last season, has made a name for himself over the last year as NFL scouts discovered Iupati not only had a massive frame, but the strength, quickness, agility and temperament to move opposing defensive linemen and protect the all-important quarterback.

What’s undeniable is his distinction as the top player at his position in this year’s pool of draft-eligible athletes.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

2010 Polynesian 2 Polynesian NFL Draft Comparisons

With the 2010 NFL Draft nearing I put together a Polynesian 2 Polynesian NFL Draft Comparison list below, check it out and feel free to comment on it. The ceiling for these players might be far and beyond the NFL comparisons I am giving them, but in thought this is put forward simply to help give you a sense of what their play style as well as overall talent is like in contrast to their fellow NFL counterparts in my general opinion. Depending on what teams these players in the 2010 NFL Draft get selected to play for, and their roles for their respected teams, these comparisons are thus subject to change. But almost certainly there is no exact science to this, its all based on relative assumptions as well as biased opinions. Regardless, I look forward to seeing any feedback, comments, or reactions to these comparisons.

2010 Polynesian 2 Polynesian NFL Draft Comparison:
Mike Iupati – Chris Kemoeatu   
Tyson Alualu – Domata Peko

Koa Misi – Kawika Mitchell

Daniel Te'o-Neshiem - Jonathan Fanene

Tony Moeaki - Itula Mili

Shawn Lauvao - Marvin Philip

Michael Hoomanawanui – Brandon Manumaleuna

Manase Tonga - Nafahu Tahi  
Martin Tevaseu - Sione Pouha   

Sunday, April 18, 2010

NFL Can Wait For Beavers' Paea

A few years ago, Oregon State's Stephen Paea didn't know anything about football. A few months ago, however, he was deciding whether it was going to make him rich this spring.

Despite a deep draft class at defensive tackle, it's hard to believe Paea would have lasted past the third round. His pure power and explosiveness suggest tremendous upside, even more so when you consider he didn't start playing the game until his senior year of high school.

"He is one of the best tackles I've coached at any level," Beavers coach Mike Riley said.

But he opted to come back for his senior season for a variety of reasons.

"I just don't feel it was my turn to go to the league," Paea said. "I feel like I owe Oregon State a favor to come back and finish school. ... If not for Oregon State, I don't think I'd have these honors."

His honors include the Morris Trophy, which is given annually to the Pac-10's top defensive lineman as voted on by opposing offensive linemen.

Paea's numbers are good but won't blow anyone away. Over the past two seasons, he has recorded 19.5 tackles for a loss and eight sacks. But he's faced double-teams much of the time and still managed to be a disruptive force in the middle.

Not that he can't get better. He's been watching film of soon-to-be top-five picks Gerald McCoy and Ndamukong Suh (On Suh: "He's a playmaker. He's a linebacker in a three-point stance.") as well as NFL Hall of Famer John Randall, trying to learn the finer points of playing defensive tackle.

Much of what he needs to do to get better should come just from seeing more action. He arrived at Oregon State after two years of junior college -- one as a redshirt -- but nonetheless broke into the starting lineup.

"I feel like my eyes need to get better," he said. "Sometimes the play is right there but I don't come off the block and make the play. I see how Suh and Gerald McCoy do that. That's their experience."

One things is certain: The now 310-pound Paea will test well at the NFL combine. He was recently captured on YouTube bench pressing 225 pounds 44 times. The NFL combine record is 45 repetitions, which is shared by three players, including former Arkansas offensive lineman Mitch Petrus this year. And the former rugby star is not just a meathead. His quickness is nearly as impressive as his strength. His highlight videos offer many examples of him running down plays.

But Paea said the NFL isn't front and center. The Beavers should again be in the thick of the Rose Bowl race, and he knows that he's a big reason why.

If he produces up to expectations, then he and the Beavers should thrive. And the NFL will be watching.

"I'm going to forget about the league and just play," he said. "Film doesn't lie. I've got to stay hungry and play every play like it's fourth-and-1."

If your not on the Paea Express' , jump aboard before its too late. Oh yeah, did I mention he can sing too?

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