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Friday, July 17, 2009

Sam was the man in Manoa

By Robert Kekaula and Rob DeMello
Special to the Star-Bulletin

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jul 17, 2009

He's an epic figure who combats enemies and performs heroic feats unachievable by ordinary humans, and he does so by finding tremendous strength in his long hair.

Sound familiar?

The description of the biblical Samson is eerily similar to that of Samson Satele, one of the most recognizable football players in the history of the University of Hawaii. At 6-feet-3 and 300 pounds, big bush flowing out of the back of his helmet, he marched to the beat of an Aretha Franklin classic.


Find out what it means to me.

"Sam's mentality was old school. Winning was important to him, but at the end of the day the only thing that really mattered was that whoever you went up against, respected you," said Satele's quarterback for two seasons, Colt Brennan.

From the first time Satele strapped up, wearing the blue and white of the Kalakaua Monarchs as a second-grader, to the silver and black he dons today as an Oakland Raider, his game has been the same.


Find out what it means to me.

"Didn't matter how big or how strong you were," Satele said. "Respect was earned, and if I deserved it but the other guy didn't give it, I took it."

Satele's mission of earning respect was widespread, going both up and down the team's schedule, as well as up and down the Warriors roster.

New players who didn't realize Samson was "King" (it was even taped on his helmet at practice) discovered so quickly. The Warriors under June Jones rarely endured punishment drills, but one morning in fall camp the team paid the price for the overnight tomfoolery of some rookies. At one point, Satele -- normally quiet -- let out a loud growl that sent a message that required no repeating. The young UH players knew there'd be more than a warning next time, and there was no next time.


Five relatives named Satele have played football for UH, or are on the current Warriors roster

» Alvis, LB, 1981-84
» Brashton, LB-DE, 2006-
» Hercules OL, 2004-07
» Liko, DL, 2008-
» Samson, OL, 2003-06

TWENTY-ONE DAYS before Satele was selected by the Miami Dolphins in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft, and four months after he played his final game for UH, redshirt junior Ray Hisatake opened his locker on the first day of spring camp, and the number 64 jersey that Satele wore stared him right in the eye.


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"I thought there's no way I'm wearing this. I have to call Samson and get his permission," Hisatake said.

Ray did call and, according to Satele, he handed off advice that was once handed off to him.

"When I replaced Vince Manuwai he told me not to worry about filling his shoes, but wear my own. I told Ray the same thing," Satele said.

Samson indeed earned respect as a Warrior. His legacy reads 53 starts in 53 games played, four-time All-WAC (at guard and center), and captain of arguably the best offense in school history.

From the outside looking in it would be easy to assume that Brennan was the team's front man. However, Hawaii's silver-tongued, golden-armed gunslinger, who threw a record 58 touchdown passes as a junior that 2006 season, says otherwise.

"When I came in as a sophomore, there was no question who the leader of the team was," Brennan said. "Sam led this team in every way until the day he left us."

Oh, and Samson took his duties seriously. He wasn't just the guy who snapped the ball to the guy who threw it. To him, it was in his job description to be the self-titled "Personal Protector" to the team's trigger-man.

"It was the Samson-type players that allowed us to have an attitude and be physical and gave us an identity in the O-line that we were just not passive pass protectors," said Jones, Satele's head coach his entire career at UH.

Brennan agreed. "With Sam at center, I've never felt safer on a football field."

Plus, there was extra motivation.

"Papa John's," said a laughing Satele. "If we kept him clean Colt bought us pizza every week. He helped us keep our weight up."

SAMSON IS THE nephew of former UH standout linebacker Alvis Satele. If choosing to play for the same college as a successful relative isn't pressure enough, the all-state offensive lineman out of Kailua High School willingly added the weight of the state on his shoulders.

"I wanted to be the next Manuwai, the next Jesse Sapolu, the next Joe Onosai," Satele said. "I played with pride. For friends, for family, for my people, for Hawaii. I wanted be the next local boy, next island boy to represent."

In two NFL seasons, Samson has represented well, making 32 starts in 32 games for the Dolphins. (That's 85 in a row dating to UH). It's a direct result of good health, he says, making good use of cold-tubs and whirlpools.

"By the eighth game of my rookie season the old timers made sure I learned a simple lesson," Satele said. "Take care of your body, because your body is your money."

In 2009, after surprisingly being traded during the offseason, Samson will make his money in Oakland, competing for playing time with 12-year veteran John Wade.

In 12 days, Satele kicks off his first training camp with the Raiders, and he's told the silver and black that his "Commitment to Excellence" will come with the same nasty mean-streak that he's always played with.

"I'm going in with a big chip on my shoulder, Satele said.


Find out what it means to me.

"When I put my helmet on, when the lights go on, I will be a Warrior."

Robert Kekaula is sports director at KITV and the radio color man for UH football. Rob DeMello is a reporter and weekend anchor at KITV. Tomorrow we unveil No. 13. See for more on "The Centurions."

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