Complete package in Hawai'i's Satele
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stephen Tsai
University of Hawai'i football center Samson Satele's Biblical first name symbolizes heroic strength.
His nickname since childhood, "King," represents fearless guidance.
And, not in name only, Satele is the powerful leader of college football's most prolific offense.
But will that be enough when he enters the next stage of his career?
Will a National Football League team's assessment of Satele match the one offered by UH offensive line coach Dennis McKnight? Last week, McKnight declared: "I would be hard-pressed to find a better center in college football. He's a complete center."
Quarterback Colt Brennan raved: "Sam played unbelievably this year."
Satele, a Kailua High graduate, completes his UH career in Sunday's Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl against Arizona State.
On Christmas Day, he will announce his future wishes and plans.
As of now, Satele, who is a semester short of earning a bachelor's degree, is expected to take a break from school. He plans to go to the Mainland in January to train for three months.
"I'll be training a lot harder," Satele said. "My family needs me to train harder. I'll be off the Islands. I have to get away from these Islands. There's too much good food. I've got to go to a place where I don't like the food."
At 6 feet 2fi and 295 pounds, Satele is suitable to play center or guard. Unlike taller and heavier interior linemen — such as Fresno State's 6-5, 330-pound Kyle Young, who was displaced as the Western Athletic Conference's best center — Satele is athletic enough to block in open areas.
"If you play in June Jones' system, you know how to pass-block," said Jerry Jones (not related to the Cowboys' owner), who analyzes the NFL draft in his self-published Drugstore List. "That is not a skill for a lot of (college linemen). A lot of (prospects) are solid run-blockers, but they don't have an idea how to pass block."
Jerry Jones said many college centers enter the NFL as guards because of their inexperience in calling out blocking schemes.
"They'll move to center at a certain point," Jones said.
But June Jones said Satele, who moved from left guard this season, made all of the blocking calls as the center this season.
"He's very smart, and he knows what to do," Jones said. Although Satele was a three-year starter at left guard, Jones predicted Satele "would be a good center for us. He probably could play tackle, if we asked him to. He can do it all."
Brennan said of his close friend: "What makes Sam special is his attitude. He's not your typical O-lineman standing there to protect. He's not this happy-go-lucky guy. He goes out there and he punishes you. When you have some of the toughest, baddest D-linemen trying to get you, it's nice to have a center like Sam, who's twice as nasty and twice as mean. He's punishing D-linemen all game. As a quarterback, it gives you a ton of confidence. I can't tell you how much confidence I had standing in the pocket this year because of Sam and the rest of the O-line."
Off the field, Satele is soft-spoken and respectful. He is active in his Mormon church.
"When the lights turn on, you've got to turn on, too," he said. "You can't let it be like practice. The guys on defense are not your friends. They're wearing another color."
Supporters are hopeful Satele's strength, light footwork and controlled aggression will be displayed in the Hawai'i Bowl, the Senior Bowl and the NFL combine. Jerry Jones said Satele should be invited to the combine, where top prospects are tested in several disciplines and evaluated through interviews.
"When they meet him," June Jones said, "they'll find out how good he really is. Right now, they're grading him totally on how he plays on film. He's had a good year."
Brennan met several top linemen two weeks ago when he attended an awards show in Orlando, Fla.
"Without a doubt, Sam should have been up for center of the year award," Brennan said. "There's no comparison. I saw the other kids and what they did. What Sam did this year is unbelievable. For him to go from guard to center, and play the way he played, who else can do that?"
Jerry Jones said a preliminary analysis shows there are no first-round centers in the 2007 draft. Southern California's Ryan Kalil is the highest-rated center. Satele is grouped with the second tier.
Jerry Jones said there is a wide range of opinions on Satele, with the most optimistic listing him as a potential second-round selection.
Jerry Jones said Satele's rating likely will fluctuate between January and March when the prospects undergo group and personal workouts.
"It'll be a long next three months," Satele said. "We'll see what happens."
SHERATON HAWAI'I BOWL
Who: Arizona State (7-5) vs. Hawai‘i (10-3)
When: 3:05 p.m. Sunday (gates open at noon)
Where: Aloha Stadium
Radio: 1420 AM (O‘ahu), KAOI (Maui/Kona), KPUA (Hilo) and KQNG (Kaua‘i)
Audio webcast: espn1420am.com
Tickets: $45, $40, $35, $30, $15, $10 (child, north end zone)
Available at University of Hawai‘i ticket office, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; Aloha Stadium, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; online, HawaiiAthletics.com, www.etickethawaii.com; by phone: 548-BOWL, Neighbor Islands and Mainland (toll free): (800) 291-3999
Reach Stephen Tsai at email@example.com.