Satele was on right track even before first victory with Miami
A veteran member of our sports staff often recalls a time in 1998 when Fred vonAppen gave him a painful glimpse into the future by saying the Hawaii football team was staring down the barrel of an 0-12 season.
That nightmare came true and we all saw how unbearable it was for the players and fans.
Up until a few days ago, Samson Satele was staring into the barrel of an 0-16 season. The former Warriors center and his Miami Dolphins teammates, however, avoided that unthinkable outcome by beating the Baltimore Ravens to improve to 1-13.
"We finally got one and I'm real happy about it," Satele said in a phone interview. "We did it with more effort, by playing harder. We had a Christmas dinner (for the Dolphins' offensive linemen on Monday) and I can say it was a better dinner (than it would have been). It was real cool, real fun."
But does one win wipe out the 13 miserable losses, and is there a bigger pot of gold down the road somewhere?
"Yeah," the 23-year-old Satele laughed about that latter, precious-metal part. "This is a business and I can't just quit. This is my team and this is my job. Everybody hates to lose. Of course it would be better to be 12-0 like the Warriors instead of (1-13).
"It's all the little stuff that every coach talks about. All the little stuff that sets you back and you lose by three points. It's been close."
Ahhhh ... three points. That was the magic losing number in six of Miami's games.
Regardless of the won-lost record, Satele has made his presence felt with the Dolphins, having started every game so far, and he feels he's firmly on the right track.
"I came from the run-and-shoot and now I'm in an offense with a power I back and two tight ends, and sometimes two running backs," he said. "It was pretty confusing at first, but I'm getting better at it all the time.
"We go up against some cats who are 6-4, 6-5, 320 to 350 pounds who can move so quick. But that's what this league is all about, and it's not like college where there can be a big difference between the starters and backups and the scout-teamers. Everybody's good, so you've gotta bring your A-game every play.
"I get a feel for every guy (opponent across the line) and what they do. Sometimes, they surprise me and hopefully sometimes I surprise them."
Vince Wilfork (6-2, 325 pounds), New England's beast of a nose tackle, is somebody Satele won't forget anytime soon.
"He's the one guy that stands out. For a man his size, he can handle the middle and he can move and he can make you think twice."
The 6-3, 300-pound Satele and the Dolphins get another crack at the undefeated Patriots on Sunday.
A Kailua High alumnus, Satele is helping make the center position in the NFL a Hawaii brotherhood. He joins Chicago's Olin Kreutz and Detroit's Dominic Raiola, two Saint Louis School grads, in the fraternity.
He's also a member in good standing of the Dolphins' own unofficial Polynesian club that includes two former Warriors -- starting fullback Reagan Mauia and practice-squad tackle Tala Esera -- along with defensive tackles Steve Fifita and Paul Soliai .
"We see each other out there on the field and we all stay together," Satele said. "The five Polynesians have a close bond. We're starting to spread out and feel comfortable with everyone else, too.
"It's great to have Reagan, who was my teammate for two years, be the guy who's right there next to me in the locker room. There's a video of him on 'You Tube' crashing through a wall. Out here, he's running through linebackers. He's doing a pretty good job."
It will be at least a little while before Satele can become the same kind of leader he was at UH.
"Some guys have been here 17 years (defensive tackle Keith Traylor is in his 16th season) and I'm just a rookie," he said.
The biggest off-field highlight for Satele was meeting Michael Jordan through Dolphins star defensive end Jason Taylor.
"Here's a guy I watched for 22 years on TV in Hawaii and then all of a sudden, there he was," Satele said. "He was a regular guy. He talked about leadership. He said you've got to lead by your actions, and said, 'If you take a day off, then other guys are going to take a day off.' That stuck with me."
The Dolphins' last game is at Cincinnati on Dec. 30, so it gives Satele the ability to go to New Orleans for Hawaii's Sugar Bowl game against Georgia on Jan. 1.
"I love it man. I'll be there to support them. I've been talking to (cousin) Hercules (Satele, UH starting guard) and wishing him luck every week. I hope I get a sideline pass from my old head coach," he said, laughing heartily, but serious nonetheless.
The New Orleans trip will be a nice breather after a long season, longer than he's ever known.
"The hardest thing in this league is that since August I haven't stopped playing and thinking about football. Compared to college, the NFL season is a long, long thing. We've had four preseason games and training camp before that and then 16 games, and maybe more if (in future years) you make the playoffs. I've got to get used to that."
He's itching to get used to winning consistently, too.