By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
The 2021 NFL Draft is just over a week away – Round 1 is Thursday, April 29 – and as usual ESPN Honolulu will provide full coverage and updates. Today, let’s examine the history of the draft as it relates to the University of Hawaii football program. From Levi Stanley and Al Noga to Ashley Leslie and Cole McDonald, the UH program has been well represented in the NFL’s annual talent search. Here are 10 quick facts about Rainbow Warriors and the NFL Draft:
♦ So far, a total of 73 UH players have been selected in the NFL Draft. The first was defensive end Larry Cole, who was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the 16th round in 1968. The most recent was QB Cole McDonald, who was picked by the Tennessee Titans in the seventh round in the 2020 draft.
♦ Only one UH player has been a first-round pick: receiver Ashley Lelie, who was taken by the Denver Broncos in the 2002 draft with the 19th overall selection.
♦ The New York Giants, Chicago Bears, Houston Oilers, Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs and the Las Vegas Raiders are the only NFL franchises that have yet to draft a Rainbow Warrior. (In 2018, the Raiders did draft Wisconsin cornerback Nick Nelson, who had formerly played at UH.)
♦ Offensive lineman Jesse Sapolu, who won four Super Bowl rings and made two Pro Bowl appearances with the San Francisco 49ers, was drafted by the Niners in the 11th round of the 1983 draft.
♦ In 1980, the Detroit Lions selected receiver DeWayne Jett and defensive tackle Tom Tuinei with back-to-back picks (#222 and #223) in the ninth round.
♦ The Los Angeles/St.Louis Rams have drafted the most UH players (five): QB Larry Arnold (1970), DT Ma‘a Tanuvasa (1993), OT Kaulana Noa (2000), LB Pisa Tinoisamoa (2003), WR Greg Salas (2011) and LB Aaron Brown (2012).
♦ The 2007 draft saw five UH players drafted: DE Ikaika Alama-Francis (R2, Detroit), C Samson Satele (R2, Miami), RB Reagan Mauia (R6, Miami), DE Mel Purcell (R6, Cleveland) and RB Nate Ilaoa (R7, Philadelphia).
♦ The Rainbow Warriors had players picked in the second round in back-to-back seasons: In 1973, the Dallas Cowboys selected WR Golden Richards. The next season, the Washington Football Team picked defensive back Jeris White. Both players would later win Super Bowl rings with their respective teams.
♦ Two special teams players from UH have been drafted: placekicker Jason Elam in 1993 by the Denver Broncos (R3) and long-snapper Jake Ingram in 2009 by the New England Patriots (R6).
♦ Of the 73 Rainbow Warriors to be drafted, 10 were second-round picks: Golden Richards, Jeris White, Walter Murray, Adrian Klemm, Pisa Tinoisamoa, Travis LaBoy, Samson Satele, Ikaika Alama-Francis, David Veikune and Jahlani Tavai.
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