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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Waiting in line

Kaluka Maiava should be forgiven if his cell phone goes off on the golf course this weekend.

The Baldwin graduate is planning to play in a benefit event at Kaanapali, but will keep his phone close by as the NFL Draft progresses."From being a ball boy at the Hula Bowl, now it's my turn to move on to the next chapter in football," Maiava said. "Hopefully somebody noticed that I can play football."

Maiava is part of a deep group of linebackers in this year's draft headed by three of his USC teammates. Maiava started at outside linebacker as a senior in a group that included projected first-round picks Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews and Rey Maualuga.

Sharing screen time with the other Trojans linebackers may have helped Maiava get noticed when scouts reviewed game tapes. But he did plenty on his own to improve his stock.

Maiava finished third on the team behind Maualuga and Cushing with 66 total tackles, including 7 1/2 for losses, and finished the season by earning defensive MVP honors in the Trojans' victory over Penn State in the Rose Bowl.

"Playing with those guys, it definitely helped me improve as a player," said Maiava, who'll be keeping track of where the other Trojans backers land while awaiting his destination. "I was very fortunate to be a part of that group. They're all my boys and we all support each other."

Maiava, projected as a middle-round pick, played in the East-West Shrine Game and went on to the NFL Combine. He ran a 4.83 40-yard dash at the combine and improved to 4.65 at USC's pro day on April 1, although he strained his hamstring in the process.

Maiava assessed his hamstring at "about 95 percent," but said he'll be ready for mini-camp.

At 5-foot-11 and 229 pounds, Maiava's size as a linebacker might work against him in evaluations. But he draws inspiration from players such as Lofa Tatupu and Waimea product Jordon Dizon as smaller linebackers who made an impact in the NFL.

"They're the same size as me and they're making plays on Sundays," said Maiava, who has been working out with former Saint Louis and Colorado lineman Vaka Manupuna.

Special teams could also serve as an entry point into the league for Maiava, who was a mainstay on USC's coverage teams throughout his career.

"Special teams is where I got my foot in the door," Maiava said. "That can separate you from guys who only play defense or only play offense. You always need an edge to make it in the NFL.

"My coach (at USC) was going to take me off the kickoff team because I was starting, but I told them not to. I like to start the game on kickoff."

Former Hawaii linebackers Solomon Elimimian and Adam Leonard are also looking for a chance to break into the league. Elimimian's agent, Wynn Silberman, said teams that run a Tampa-2 defense have shown interest in Elimimian, UH's all-time leading tackler. Leonard had a workout with the Seattle Seahawks after his performance at Hawaii's pro day.

"I have confidence no matter how I get in I have the ability to make a team,” Leonard said.“The goal is to get into a camp, but I’m pretty confident I’ll get drafted.”

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