Titans draft Mahelona in fifth round
The former Kealakehe standout will join the team on Thursday
The day after his final University of Tennessee regular-season football game, Jesse Mahelona took the 3-hour trip from Knoxville to Nashville to watch the Tennessee Titans beat the San Francisco 49ers.
He had no idea that five months later he'd become a Titan himself.
Tennessee drafted the 6-foot, 311-pound defensive tackle from Kailua-Kona in the fifth round of the NFL Draft yesterday, selecting Mahelona with the 169th pick overall.
"We knew the Titans defensive line coach (Jim Washburn) liked Jesse a lot," said his agent, Chad Speck. "They look closely at (University of) Tennessee players because of the proximity. The Titans also like players who play hard, and Jesse fits that to a T."
Mahelona got to know Washburn during Senior Bowl practices last January.
A Kealakehe alumnus, Mahelona was the only player from Hawaii drafted this year. Wisconsin center Donovan Raiola, a Kamehameha graduate, agreed yesterday to join the St. Louis Rams as a free agent.
Several former University of Hawaii players, including safety Lono Manners and offensive lineman Brandon Eaton, were hoping to get free-agent deals in the next day or two. So was Washington linebacker Joe Lobendahn, a Saint Louis School graduate.
When Mahelona reports to the Titans on Thursday, he may run into some familiar faces. He has gotten to know third-year defensive end Travis LaBoy, the former UH star. Also, veteran Albert Haynesworth is another former Volunteers defensive tackle.
"We have the same agent and I hung out with him one or two times," Mahelona said of Haynesworth.
Mahelona said he's happy to be joining a team where he already has some familiarity, as well as joining a Titans rookie class that also includes quarterback Vince Young and running back LenDale White.
"I feel real good about it," he said. "I'm a little bit disappointed about it being so late (in the draft), but I have no control over that. All I can do is show up at minicamp and do my best."