Former Hawaii offensive tackle Wayne Hunter got a call from the Seattle Seahawks yesterday, informing him that they were drafting him in the third round. Hunter's mother, Frances, top left, hugged her sister, as Hunter's girlfriend, Sirena Acebedo, right, and former UH and NFL offensive lineman Leo Goeas, far left, looked on.

3 from Hawaii drafted

Tinoisamoa is the first to get the call,
going to St. Louis in the second round

Waiting is hardest part

Pisa Tinoisamoa's doubters vastly outnumbered the believers four years ago. But those who stood by his side were rewarded with his gratitude yesterday when the Hawaii linebacker was picked by the St. Louis Rams in the second round of the NFL Draft.

Tinoisamoa was among the most talented football players ever produced by the San Diego area. But his future seemed shaky when he spent much of his senior year of high school incarcerated for beating another youth.

UH coach June Jones took a chance, extending a scholarship offer to Tinoisamoa when everyone else backed off. Tinoisamoa responded with an outstanding three-year Warriors career capped by a team-MVP season last fall -- and no off-field problems once he buckled down in school.

"Four years ago I was down in the dumps. Everyone present here was at my court hearing, and their support has continued. I'm grateful to the University of Hawaii for the opportunity to show my ability. And I thank my family. They've always supported me," Tinoisamoa said yesterday after being selected with the 43rd pick overall. "I hope I can continue to achieve with the Rams. Everything happens for a reason."

Ruta Aunese-Tinoisamoa said she believes divine intervention had something to do with the Rams choosing her son.

"That was my brother's favorite team," she said through tears, referring to Sal Aunese, the Colorado quarterback who was idolized by Pisa and died of cancer in 1989.

"Now we're pulling for Wayne (Hunter) and Vince (Manuwai)," Aunese-Tinoisamoa said.

It took some time, but Tinoisamoa's offensive-line teammates eventually joined him as pros yesterday, and in rapid succession.

In the third round, the Jacksonville Jaguars took Manuwai with the 72nd pick, and the Seattle Seahawks immediately grabbed Hunter with No. 73. Both were projected to go sooner by many analysts, and both got antsy as the day wore on. Hunter got so agitated he had to stop watching ESPN's draft show. He went into a bedroom and talked to Manuwai on his cell phone.

"He was just cruising and I was just cruising. We were in the same shoes, getting kind of irritated," Hunter said.

But then, at 1:42 p.m., Manuwai got the call from the Jaguars. Three minutes later, a representative from the Seahawks called Hunter.

"You guys got a really good deal, I'll tell you that," Hunter said. "I've been waiting long enough."

So had the usually unflappable Manuwai, who also had to tell friends to stop calling his phone before he was drafted.

Then he got the one he wanted.

"I looked at the area code (904) and it was one I didn't know, so I thought it might be a team," Manuwai said. "It's all about business now."

Both Hunter and Manuwai join offensive lines that already have Hawaii connections. Manuwai is projected to play left guard for the Jaguars, as Kahuku High School graduate Chris Naeole is solid at right guard. Hunter gets to meet former UH standout Kaulana Noa, a guard who became a member of the Seahawks practice squad last October.

Hunter and his girlfriend, Sirena Acebedo, are excited about living in Seattle; Acebedo's parents live in the area.

The draftees leave for minicamps next week, while their agents begin negotiations.

Tinoisamoa will likely get a three- or four-year contract with an annual salary close to $1 million, and his signing bonus could be in the same range. Manuwai and Hunter will probably get three-year deals with salaries around $400,000 and signing bonuses in the $500,000 range.

The fourth through seventh rounds will be held today. UH center Lui Fuata (Lahainaluna) and punter Mat McBriar might be picked, as well as Washington State quarterback Jason Gesser (Saint Louis), Utah defensive tackle Lauvale Sape (Leilehua) and Arizona offensive lineman Makoa Freitas (Kamehameha).


Waiting the hardest
part of the draft

Each year, nearly 100 young men are picked for fame and fortune on the first day of the NFL Draft. They watch ESPN's coverage of the event and wait to be called, to be told they have cleared one of the most significant hurdles in the path between them and living their dreams.

For those who aren't chosen right away, though, the process is tortuous and emotionally wrenching -- especially for a prospect many projected to be picked early who watches friends and former teammates get the call.

Here is some of what Wayne Hunter went through yesterday at a relative's house in Waimanalo:

6 a.m.: The first 15 picks of the draft go by quickly. Hunter, who is with his girlfriend, Sirena Acebedo, relatives and advisers Larry and Leo Goeas, watches intently -- especially when the first offensive lineman, Jordan Gross of Utah, goes to Carolina at No. 8.

7:34 a.m.: Hunter chuckles when Kyle Boller, whom he played with as a freshman at Cal, is chosen 19th by the Ravens. Hunter had been told he might have been picked by the Patriots, but they traded the pick to Baltimore. "We had a good recruiting class at Cal, but nothing came of it," Hunter says in passing.

7:48 a.m.: Center Jeff Faine of Notre Dame -- not Hunter, as some projected -- is picked by the Cleveland Browns.

8:48 a.m.: As the first round continues, Hunter's name shows up on "Mel's Picks" of the best available athletes. "That's nice, but I'm just waiting for my name to be mentioned on my phone," he says.

9:15 a.m.: Bears center Olin Kreutz calls Larry Goeas about a business deal. The Bears are among the teams that showed interest in Hunter, but Chicago picked quarterback Rex Grossman at No. 22. "Why'd you guys do that with that pick?" Goeas asks Kreutz with a laugh.

11:06 a.m.: Everybody leans forward as the Raiders make the final picks of the first round. If Hunter is disappointed when his name is not called, he hides it well; another former teammate, Nnamdi Asomugha of Cal, is one of the choices. "He's a good guy. He used to cut my hair over there."

11:15 a.m.: The Bengals take an offensive lineman, but it isn't Hunter. "They're starting to drag me, drag me like a dog," he says, still good-naturedly.

12:14 p.m.: Hunter is happy for UH teammate Pisa Tinoisamoa, who is taken by the Rams. But after more than six hours and 43 picks, he is becoming anxious. "This is irritating. I just want to get picked and get it over with. Whoever gets me is going to get a great deal."

12:27 p.m.: Hunter's phone rings with the Browns on the clock in the second round, but it is a false alarm.

12:35 p.m.: Hunter retreats to another room to get away from the TV. Leo Goeas, a former UH and NFL lineman, was chosen in the third round in 1989. "It's a very emotional time for him right now. If I was in his position, I would need a break from being around anyone right now."

12:51 p.m.: Larry Goeas gets a call from Kenny Zuckerman, Hunter's agent. "Kenny says there's a string of picks coming up now by teams that want Wayne."

1:08 p.m.: Hunter returns to the room. "I just talked to Vince (Manuwai). He's frustrated too."

1:12 p.m.: Hunter talks to Zuckerman. "Kenny, put me at ease. What's going on?" A two-minute conversation follows, and ends with Hunter more relaxed.

1:17 p.m.: "When did Olin get picked up?" Hunter asks. "In the third," Leo Goeas answers. "He was mad until he got the call. Then he was OK."

1:33 p.m.: "This is worse than recruiting," Hunter says. "When you're being recruited, you get to pick. This you just have to wait."

1:35 p.m.: "We need to make a new budget," Acebedo says with a laugh, as the third round gets under way.

1:44 p.m.: Manuwai's name flashes across the screen as the Jaguars' pick at No. 72.

1:46 p.m.: Hunter's phone rings, seven hours and 45 minutes after the draft began. It is the Seattle Seahawks informing him they have selected him with their third-round pick, making him the 73rd overall choice. "You guys got a really good deal, I'll tell you that," says Hunter, smiling for the first time in hours. "I've been waiting long enough."

2:04 p.m.: Hunter says he will use being a late first-day choice to his advantage. "I'm going to come in there with the mentality of a first-rounder and fight to start. I don't like to watch other people play. I'm going to make the other teams that didn't pick me pay for it."


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