Star-Bulletin Sports

Monday, April 23, 2001


3 from isles
picked in draft’s
second day

And 3 others from Hawaii
have made deals to play as pros

'Mr. Irrelevant'

By Paul Arnett

Several players with ties to the island chain were either selected in the final day of the National Football League draft yesterday or have already signed free-agent deals.

University of Hawaii offensive lineman Kynan Forney went a little later than expected, but was picked in the seventh round by the Atlanta Falcons. He could end up blocking for No. 1 overall draft choice Michael Vick.

"For a while I didn't think it was going to happen, but finally it did,'' said Forney, who was the 219th player chosen. "I kept waiting and waiting, wondering if it ever was going to happen.''

Brigham Young University tight end Tevita Ofahengaue, a Kahuku allumnus, felt the same way. Ofahengaue earned the distinction as the last player selected at No. 246, affectionately known in NFL circles as "Mr. Irrelevant." (see accompanying story at right).

Joining him in the NFL ranks will be running back James Fenderson. Like Forney, Fenderson made the most of his opportunity his senior season. He said yesterday from his home in California that he signed a free-agent contract with the New Orleans Saints. Fenderson, who was Hawaii's leading rusher in 2000 and a last-minute selection to the Hula Bowl, said the Saints want to use him as a running back and on special teams.

"I'll be attending their first minicamp on Thursday,'' said Fenderson, who played his high school ball for Mililani. "I'm very excited about this opportunity. They called me about an hour after the draft was over. It's something you dream about. Having someone (Kaaawa's Chris Naeole) from Hawaii on the team will be good.''

Former Farrington High standout Mario Fatafehi was selected in the fifth round by the Arizona Cardinals. The defensive tackle for the Kansas State Wildcats was projected to go in the middle rounds. Arizona scouts liken him to Seattle's Cortez Kennedy.

Fatafehi was a Sporting News preseason All-American. The 1999 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year registered 128 career tackles for Kansas State. He had 12 quarterback sacks and was a unanimous first team player in the Big 12.

"He was a heck of a football player when he was with us,'' former Farrington High head coach Skippa Diaz said. "He'll be a good player in the NFL. We're very proud for his family."

There were only four players with local ties drafted. The first was Dominic Raiola, who was selected in the second round by the Detroit Lions on Saturday. He was the 50th player drafted overall. Detroit had expressed an interest in Raiola prior to the draft. The consensus All-American center for Nebraska went a little later than expected, but is happy to be playing in the NFL.

Former St. Louis School teammate Darnell Arceneaux recently signed a deal with Montreal of the Canadian Football League. He said yesterday that he will join the team at the end of May.

"This is a really good chance for me to improve my game,'' the former University of Utah quarterback said last night. "It looks like me and Stanley Jackson of Ohio State will be competing at the position. I'm just glad to get this chance. I'm still living my dream."

So is former Kahuku High and Utes linebacker Kautai Olevao. He said last night from his home in Utah that he has signed a free-agent contract with the Tennessee Titans.

"It's all good here," Olevao said. "I'm very excited to be playing for the Titans. They're a really good team. I'll be going to their camp this weekend, where I'll be playing linebacker and special teams. This is a great opportunity for me."

Forney feels the same way. Although he wasn't sure last week where he would wind up, he said he hoped a team from the South selected him. The Nacadogches, Texas, native got his wish. He is the third UH offensive linemen in two years to be drafted in the NFL.

"I owe so much to my coaches,'' Forney said of head coach June Jones and offensive line assistant Mike Cavanaugh. "They got me ready for this. Now, it's up to me to do well and make the cut. I'm excited about the opportunity to block for Michael Vick. Hopefully, I'll be able to stick around."

The Atlanta Falcons' scouting report said Forney was a tough competitor who is able to swing around his hips and seal. He sets well in the pocket, extends his arms aggressively, backpedals smooth in pass protection and is quick at the snap.

Cavanaugh had a lot to do with all of that. Forney played tackle in college but will likely be a guard in the Falcons' offense. The offensive line coach for the Warriors believes Forney will be successful at the next level.

"He is quite a story,'' Cavanaugh said. "He doesn't play much his first two years here because of injuries. But he stuck with it, bought into what we were trying to get done and worked hard at it. He deserves the chance to play at the next level."

Forney drew the attention of Atlanta at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine. He was clocked at 5.11 in the 40 and did a maximum bench press of 455 pounds. He will report to minicamp later this week.

Other players with island ties still waiting to hear about possible free-agent deals are UH safety Dee Miller, defensive tackle Doug Sims and linebacker Rinda Brooks.

Tevita Ofahengaue, a tight end at Kahuku High
and Brigham Young, was the last pick in this
weekend’s NFL draft.

Kahuku grad is
‘Mr. Irrelevant’

From staff and wire reports

TEMPE, Ariz. >> Kahuku alumnus Tevita Ofahengaue was the last player chosen in this weekend's NFL draft, a distinction that will earn him enough perks to make him feel like the No. 1 pick.

The player chosen in the last round of the draft each year has come to affectionately be known as "Mr. Irrelevant."

But the BYU tight end from Laie -- a 25-year-old father of four who was out of football from 1992 to 1996 -- is not irrelevant to the Arizona Cardinals, the team that chose him and believes he has a legitimate shot at making the team.

"He was the highest tight end on our board," coach Dave McGinnis said, high praise considering that one tight end (Todd Heap of Arizona State) went to the Baltimore Ravens at the end of the first round.

As the 246th pick in the draft yesterday, Ofahengaue will go to Newport Beach, Calif., in June at no charge for a series of parties, a trip to Disneyland, a pub crawl and other side trips.

Ofahengaue was just happy to be drafted.

"I am excited about this whole Mr. Irrelevant thing, but I am more excited to get the chance to go there and play," he said.

Ofahengaue was married in 1991 and had no intention of playing football. He was working for an airline in Dallas when former Kahuku teammate Itula Mili, who was then BYU's tight end, asked him if he'd ever thought about going back to school.

"I am like 'No, I am already making good enough money and I am traveling the world,' " Ofahengaue said. "But then my parents talked me into walking on, ... then (I) earned a scholarship and started three years at BYU.

"Then all of a sudden the NFL starts coming around and I was like 'Wow, I can't believe that I actually have a chance to be playing with the big boys."'

He caught 62 passes for 853 yards and four TDs at BYU.

As for his name, it's pronounced Tuh-VEE-tuh Oh-fen-GOW-wee. "It's simple," he said, "just like John Smith."

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