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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Alama-Francis, Satele picked in NFL draft

Alama-Francis, Satele picked in NFL draft

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Yes, big guys cry.

They weep unabashedly when their pretty-please wishes are answered.

"I just broke down," said Ikaika Alama-Francis, a former University of Hawai'i defensive end who was selected by the Detroit Lions in the second round of yesterday's National Football League draft. "I couldn't save any tears. It was an amazing thing."

Former UH center Samson Satele tried to leash his emotions after learning he was picked in the second round — two spots after Alama-Francis was selected — by the Miami Dolphins.

"After I talked to the Miami guy, I saw my dad and gave him a big hug," Satele said. "And then everything just came out. All of my tears just came out. It took me an hour to recover."

The announcements ended a white-knuckle week for both players. Although each was projected to be selected on the first day, Satele admitted, "You never know."

Alama-Francis did not play organized sports until his freshman year at Kalaheo High School. His first time in a football uniform was three years ago, when he switched from the UH basketball team. The Lions were not one of the six teams to invite Alama-Francis for a personal interview.

Satele had played football for 15 years. But last year was his first season as a full-time center.

Satele had a pillow-punching night leading to yesterday morning's draft telecast.

"I couldn't sleep," Satele said. "I stayed up more than 24 hours. I drove around at 4 o'clock in the morning. I went to Fast Stop and got a couple of Red Bulls. I thought (the draft) started at 5. It started at 6. I had to wait another hour."

Both knew they would not sneak into the first round. Still, Alama-Francis could not take the tension.

"I turned around, and he was gone," said his father, Joe Francis, who played for the Green Bay Packers in the 1960s. "I said, 'Where's Ikaika?' They told me he had to leave."

Alama-Francis and former UH punter Kurt Milne met at the Bay View Golf Course. They headed straight to the driving range.

"I was going crazy, man," Alama-Francis said. "I had to do something. I couldn't take it anymore."

Then his cell phone rang.

"It was a 313 number," Alama-Francis recalled. "I thought, 'This could be it.' I answered the phone, and the voice on the other end said: 'Welcome to the Motor City.' I started going crazy. I started screaming and yelling. And then I started giving away my golf balls. I just bought a bucket and I'm like, 'I don't care.' "

Meanwhile, Satele was in the eighth hour of his personal anguish.

"It was nerve-wracking," Satele said of watching the draft coverage. "I had my hat down low. My pillow was covering my face. I tried not to look at the TV. I was sitting there for a long time. It was a long wait."

There was a slight panic in the self-styled "Party Zone" — his uncle Alvis Satele's living room, where family and friends had waited — when ESPN's draft coverage ended. It took about a minute to realize the coverage moved to ESPN2.

"All we had to do was click the channel button, and everything was better," Satele said.

And then Satele received the call from the Dolphins.

"I know I have a lot of work to do, but I'm so happy I was drafted," Satele said. "It's so hard to explain."

Alama-Francis could relate.

"It's a dream come true," said Alama-Francis, who will play defensive end in the Lions' 4-3 schemes. "I never thought I'd be in this position. Never. I mean, what do you know? I'm in the National Football League. Me. Unbelievable."

Alama-Francis reports to the Lions' mini-camp on Thursday.

Satele leaves Thursday for the Dolphins' introductory dinner in Miami. He then will stay for mini-camp.

Both will have to make adjustments. The Lions always play on Thanksgiving.

"Happy Thanksgiving," Alama-Francis said.

For the introductory dinner, Satele must buy his first suit and tie.

"It's going to be a fun ride from now on," Satele said. "I'm going to make my way around Miami and try to find Shaq."

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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