CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Senior left guard Hercules Satele was called the most underrated player for the Warriors last season by offensive line coach Dennis McKnight.
Satele a fixture on young UH O-line
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The Star-Bulletin's series of weekly features on University of Hawaii football players preparing for the upcoming season continues today with a profile of senior left guard Hercules Satele.
Satele will be the only Warrior offensive lineman returning to the same position he started at last season.
According to offensive line assistant Dennis McKnight and head coach June Jones, the rest of the front protecting Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Colt Brennan lines up like this with the opening of fall camp next month: Keoni Steinhoff (left tackle), John Estes (center), Larry Sauafea (right guard) and Keith Ah-Soon (right tackle).
Changes are very possible -- maybe even likely -- as UH tries to find the right combination before the Warriors play Northern Colorado in the season opener Sept. 1. But one constant will be Satele, whom McKnight called the most underrated player for UH last year.
Satele was born in Honolulu but grew up in Long Beach, Calif.
He has three cousins who were on last year's 11-3 team who are now in NFL camps -- center Samson Satele, running back Nate Ilaoa and defensive end Melila Purcell.
In today's feature, Hercules Satele talks about his unique first name, assuming a leadership role, building on last year's success, and other topics.
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Hercules, the heroic demigod of ancient Greece, took the 12 tasks assigned him by Apollo one at a time ... or so we must assume.
The current day Hercules, surname Satele, says that's his plan, too, is one game at a time. Hawaii's senior left guard will be much more reality than myth for the Warriors' 12 regular-season opponents' defensive linemen this fall.
Satele, of course, is more than willing to take on a 13th task, one much more Herculean than most of the regular-season schedule -- a BCS bowl game for him and his Warrior teammates.
"Obviously, the expectations are high for us right now," Satele said. "We saw what Boise did last year and we want to be in that same situation. We just have to come together."
The 6-foot-2, 300-pound Satele said he grew into his interesting first name.
"I didn't know what the name meant when I was small," he said. "When I got to middle school and high school I got taller and bigger. One of my teachers said it fit me. It was awkward at first, but you get used to it."
Satele spent a week at home in Long Beach, Calif., following the spring semester. He loves Long Beach, and still considers it his first home, with Hawaii a close second. But Satele couldn't wait to get back to the island.
Back to work.
"I knew every single day I put off would be a wasted day," he said.
Satele and sophomore center John Estes are the only returning starters on the Hawaii offensive line. Their unit is where people look when searching for potential flaws in the 2007 Warriors.
Satele uses this as fuel as he toils in summer workouts.
"Everyone has questions about our O-line. We have to replace three starters, and the running back," said Satele, who was a regular starter for the first time last season. "But that's what makes us work harder, to get rid of those question marks, and just play football and get this offense ready to roll. Last season John and I were considered question marks. That made us work harder and by the end of the season it erased that."
Satele was the unsung member of college football's most explosive offense last year. He excelled not only at pass blocking, but in pulling to lead the way for his cousin, running back Nate Ilaoa.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Senior left guard Hercules Satele was born in Hawaii but moved to California, where he lived until he came back to play for the Warriors four years ago.
Another cousin, center Samson Satele, was the undisputed leader of the Warriors. In some respects, Hercules will help fill the void. Like Samson, Hercules is quiet by nature. But also like Samson, he has a commanding presence and the respect of teammates.
"It's hard to make somebody a leader if it's not in them by nature," UH offensive line coach Dennis McKnight said. "But Herc, I've seen and watched him grow so much this offseason. He's been out there working these kids out every day. That's priceless.
"I don't think he got the credit he deserved last year, the way he played. If you look at the overall grade average for the season, he graded out as our second-best lineman."
Satele was born in Hawaii, but when he was a baby, his family moved to California, and that's where he lived until coming to UH in 2003.
"At first you have to get used to the language. I had a hard time communicating with my cousins over here at first. I didn't know pidgin," said Satele, who is also related to linebacker Brashton Satele and defensive ends Melila Purcell (since gone to the NFL) and Amani Purcell.
Satele was a team captain for powerhouse Long Beach Poly, and starred on the team that beat Kahuku 42-16 as part of a Hawaii-California doubleheader that also featured De La Salle against Saint Louis. His experience at Aloha Stadium helped him choose UH over other schools, including Arizona State, Stanford and USC. He would have had more opportunities, but weighed just 238 pounds as a high school senior.
"I had no problem signing with Hawaii. I had family over here," Satele said. "I knew one day we'd be eventually up there with them and right now we are."
Satele said he misses his cousins who have gone on to the pros, as well as the rest of last year's senior class.
"It's different, you know. Every day last year we lifted, they were doing what me, Mike (defensive lineman Lafaele) and Amani are doing this year. Without them it's different. You just have to keep on working and lead by example. When people see how hard you work, they want to work as hard as you."
The 6-foot-2 Satele hopes to play at 300 pounds this year, up from 288, while maintaining last year's speed.
"He's in top shape. He's lean," McKnight said. "If he stays healthy and does what I know he can do, he's going to be a rich man real soon."