Bypassed by the draft, three former Hawai'i football players caught second-wind chances by reaching agreements on free-agent deals with National Football League teams. A fourth former Warrior said he will also sign on.
Shortly after the conclusion of the three-day, seven-round NFL draft, pro dreams were extended to:
• Center John Estes, who will join the Jacksonville Jaguars.
• Linebacker Brashton Satele, who has signed with the Oakland Raiders.
• Offensive lineman Ray Hisatake, who signed with the Carolina Panthers.
• Linebacker Blaze Soares, in a text message to The Advertiser, said he will sign with the Chicago Bears.
Agent Kenny Zuckerman said Estes was undeterred by not being drafted.
"At the end of the day, you have to make the roster, and John is in a great situation," Zuckerman said.
Estes had hoped to land on a team with an older center who could serve as a mentor.
The Jaguars' starting center, Brad Meester, 33, will be entering his 11th season in 2010.
Most NFL teams have eight active offensive linemen for each game, and prefer the backup linemen to be able to play multiple positions. But the Jaguars were willing to sign Estes as primarily a backup center.
"This is a team with an older center that has no problem playing tougher under-sized guys in the past," Zuckerman said.
Estes started each of the 54 games of his UH career. He also played well in the East-West Shrine Game, where he caught the attention of the Jaguars.
Estes was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, and a tweaked left hamstring cut short his workout at UH's Pro Day.
But the Jaguars remained in contact, and it was believed that if Estes were not drafted, he would be a high-priority free agent.
Estes signed the standard three-year contract, Zuckerman said, with a five-figure signing bonus that "is one of the larger signing bonuses given to an undrafted player."
Estes said he is glad the wait is over.
"I knew I would play football somewhere," he said. "It worked out. Jacksonville is the best situation. I like their style."
Satele withstood an emotional roller-coaster. Last week, he was told the NCAA denied his request for a medical exemption that would have allowed him to play for the Warriors as a sixth-year senior in 2010 .
"That was tough," said Satele, who then declared himself eligible to enter the NFL's free-agent pool.
Satele had received several inquiries before the draft, but it was decided that the Raiders, who place a high value on speedy defenders, would be the best match.
Satele ran the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds at UH's Pro Day. One scout clocked him at 4.59 seconds.
By agreeing to the standard three-year deal, Satele will be reunited with his cousin, Samson Satele, a former UH offensive lineman. Samson Satele is the Raiders' starting center.
"This is the best situation for me," Satele said. "I have to prove myself, but I'm ready to go."
Zuckerman said: "Brashton knew he wasn't getting drafted. He told me, 'find me a team that will give me a chance.' He's getting a chance."
Hisatake's ascent has been remarkable. He attended a California high school that did not field a football team.
After playing at College of San Mateo, he joined the Warriors as a defensive lineman. He switched to the offensive line in 2008, and broke into the starting lineup, as a guard, last year.
"I'm really excited," Hisatake said. "I'm a one-year starter, and I've only been playing on the o-line for two years."
Agent Leo Goeas said the Panthers were impressed with Hisatake's reach (34 inches), footwork and ability to play both guard and tackle.
The Panthers did not draft any offensive linemen. Even if they sign free-agent linemen, Goeas noted, Hisatake "will be on equal ground with them."
Hisatake received a $10,000 signing bonus.
In all free-agent contracts, only the signing bonus is guaranteed. The first-year salary is $320,000.
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