4 Warriors garner All-WAC accolades
BY Stephen Tsai
Hawai'i football center John Estes will have another item to pack for his move back to the Mainland.
Yesterday, Estes, linebacker Blaze Soares and left slotback Greg Salas were named to the All-Western Athletic Conference first team.
Left tackle Aaron Kia was the lone Warrior on the second team.
Estes became the third Warrior to be named to the All-WAC first team three times, following running back Gary Allen (1979, 1980, 1981) and slotback Davone Bess (2005, 2006, 2007).
Bess, now with the Miami Dolphins, relinquished his senior season to apply for the 2008 National Football League draft.
"It's good to get recognition from the rest of the WAC," said Estes, a senior from Stockton, Calif. "It's good to see the other guys on the team get on the All-WAC team."
Estes, Soares and Kia are scheduled to graduate Dec. 19.
Estes, who will earn a degree in communications, said he will train on the Mainland.
Estes has been invited to compete in the NFL combine, which begins Feb. 21 in Indianapolis.
He also received an invitation to the East-West Shrine Game Jan. 23 in Orlando, Fla.
Soares, a Castle High graduate, also has been told he will be invited to the NFL combine, a remarkable turnaround for a player whose availability was in question entering this season.
Soares played the entire 2007 season with a stinger that made it difficult to raise his left arm. He missed the 2008 season because of a torn ligament below his left calf.
But Soares started all 13 games this season, finishing with a team-high 107 tackles.
"I stayed healthy this past season," Soares said. "I've been blessed, and I've been fortunate. I give all grace to the Lord."
He also praised defensive coordinator Cal Lee, who tutors the linebackers, and graduate assistant Mike Smith, a former Baltimore Ravens linebacker.
"Coach Cal taught me how to become a linebacker," Soares said. "Coach Mike took it to another level. I was blessed to have those two coaches in my life. I see them as guardian angels."
The Warriors needed one more victory to qualify for the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl and face former coach June Jones, now with Southern Methodist. Instead, SMU will face Nevada on Christmas Eve.
"I wish I had one more snap with my brothers," Soares said. "It's sad, but it's life. In life, things don't always go as planned. You have to keep pushing forward. We didn't get the big finish. I'm sorry for that."
Salas, who moved from left wideout to slotback, had a breakout season, amassing 106 catches for 1,590 yards. He fell short of setting the school's single-season record in both categories when he left the past Saturday's game because of a pulled right hamstring.
"It would have been nice to get some of those things," Salas said of the record, "but that's not what my focus is. It's winning games. I wasn't able to be out there helping my team win a game. That's what I'm most disappointed about."
Kia had a tough chore, serving as the backside blocker to four quarterbacks this season. He allowed two sacks through the first 12 games.
Of his honor, Kia said: "It feels good to make a team, period. I really didn't think I'd make it, but I'm happy I got it. It's bittersweet happiness because of how the season ended."