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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 29, 2007

Futures riding on Pro Day

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Ikaika Alama-Francis

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Stephen Tsai will have updates from Carson, Calif., on UH's players at today's combine on his blog.

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In the appropriately named Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., pro football futures could be shaped and built.

For 15 former University of Hawai'i players, their performances in Pro Day a series of skill drills before dozens of scouts will determine draft positions and National Football League employment.

"It's a big deal," defensive end Ikaika Alama-Francis said.

Alama-Francis, safety Leonard Peters, running back Nate Ilaoa and offensive linemen Samson Satele, Tala Esera and Dane Uperesa were among the selected guests invited to compete in the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last month.

Most Division I-A schools then sponsor a Pro Day, in which their top draft-eligible players compete in workouts witnessed by scouts and coaches. To maximize their exposure, UH received permission to stage its Pro Day in Carson, a day after the University of Southern California's popular Pro Day.

The strategy is beneficial. For instance, the University of Idaho's Pro Day drew only Canadian Football League scouts.

USC's Pro Day is so popular the Trojans open it to the public in the hope it will impress future recruits.

UH's Pro Day will offer several opportunity avenues.

Alama-Francis (torn pectoral muscle), Uperesa (pulled hamstring) and Esera (stomach flu) did not participate in speed and jumping drills at the NFL combine. All three have been cleared to participate today.

"I'm ready," said Alama-Francis, whose pectoral muscle has fully healed.

Ilaoa and Peters are using the Pro Day as a make-up test. Both want to improve their times in the 40-yard dash and shuttle runs.

At Indianapolis, there were short breaks between drills.

"My feet were hurting," Ilaoa said. "I should be fresh this time."

Peters' problems could be traced to slow starts. He spent the past month working on his first-step quickness. He also lost seven pounds and weighs 210.

"We'll see what happens," Peters said.

Satele, in contrast, performed well in the sprints and shuttles in Indianapolis. He will skip those disciplines today, and take part only in the footwork drills.

Agent Leo Goeas said it is "50-50" whether Satele will be picked in the second or third round.

"He's going to be picked on Saturday," Goeas said of the first three rounds of the draft. "We're not sure if it's in the second or third round."

For the rest, Pro Day is an opportunity to impress . . . somebody.

Cornerback Kenny Patton was considered to be a pro prospect before suffering a broke collarbone during the Warriors' sixth game in 2006.

Receivers Ross Dickerson, Ian Sample and Chad Mock were overshadowed by teammates Davone Bess, Ryan Grice-Mullins and Jason Rivers.

Lawrence Wilson, who can bench press 500 pounds, had the misfortune of playing in a 3-4 scheme that employed only one interior defensive lineman. Stuck behind nose tackle Michael Lafaele, Wilson had limited playing time.

"It's one of the biggest tests we'll take in our lives, at least physically and mentally," Sample said. "We're doing our best to prepare for both."

UH assistant coach Rich Miano, the Warriors' pro liaison, said: "There's a lot of money and futures riding on this day."

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.