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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Hawai'i Offensive Lineman Ray Hisatake


Posted on: Thursday, April 12, 2007

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By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Think your boss is understanding?

Ray Hisatake weighed 320 pounds when he reported to the University of Hawai'i football team in January. He was granted permission — encouraged, in fact — to gain weight.

"I'm about 330, 335 now," said Hisatake, who is 6 feet 4. "It's good weight for me. I can still move, and I'm getting bigger and stronger. I feel good."

Now Hisatake, who transferred from the College of San Mateo (Calif.), is competing for playing time at left tackle. Last year's starter, Tala Esera, completed his NCAA eligibility in December.

"Hisatake is doing very well for someone who has played the position for only five days," head coach June Jones said.

Hisatake was a defensive tackle at San Mateo for two years — his only previous experience as a football player. Hisatake is a graduate of Westmoor High School (Daly City, Calif), which did not field a football team. Instead he competed in discus and shot put for four years and basketball as a senior.

Hisatake enrolled at San Mateo with the intention of trying out for the track and field team. Instead, he opted to fulfill a childhood ambition of playing football.

Last season, Rivals.com gave Hisatake a three-star rating as a defensive tackle. In December, he signed with the Warriors, who were looking to replenish their defensive line.

Hisatake enrolled at UH in January, and shortly before starting his training program, he was told he would move to the offensive line. Jones said Hisatake's strength (286-pound power clean), agility (23-inch vertical jump) and long reach are suitable for playing left tackle.

"I told them I don't mind moving," Hisatake said. "If the team needs me to play tackle, I'll play tackle. I'm doing it for the team. A team wouldn't work unless there's cooperation and a strong unit within itself. I'm giving it a shot."

Hisatake said the most difficult adjustment is learning patience. As a defensive linemen, "I was lunging forward," he said. "As an o-lineman, I have to be patient, keep my hands inside (the frame of an opponent) and let them come to you."

Hisatake mostly competes on the second team, behind Aaron Kia.

"He's ready now, and we haven't even played a game," Jones said. "It's hard to say if he's up to where everybody else is, but athletically he certainly is."

Hisatake has a unique background. His great-grandfather was a Japanese man who moved to American Samoa.

"He married a full-blooded Samoan woman," said Hisatake, whose grandfather and father also married Samoan women.

That makes Hisatake seven-eighth Samoan. Still, Hisatake said: "A lot of recruiters asked my coach (at San Mateo): 'Are Japanese people really that big?' My coach laughed and said, 'He's Polynesian, as well.' "

Hisatake's father was born in American Samoa but moved to the Mainland to join the military. Hisatake has lived mostly on the Mainland.

But his sister lives in Hawai'i. He also is related to Joe Hisatake, a heralded running back from Damien Memorial School in the late 1960s.

Of his extended family in Hawai'i, he said, "I have yet to meet them."

Hisatake, who earned his associate degree in December, has been busy. He has football training and a full load of classes. He plans to remain in Hawai'i this summer.

"I love it here," he said. "I'm going to compete all spring and summer and see where it takes me."

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