If Hau'oli Kikaha hadn't tore his ACL twice early in his college career, he would be a surefire first round draft pick in 2015. Kikaha is one of the best pass rushers in college football, and leads the entire nation in sacks (16.5) and tackles for loss (21.5). This is a step up from his stats last season, with 13 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. Kikaha effectively uses his hands and is an extremely hardworking player with the chance to make a huge impact as a pass rusher at the next level.
I love Kikaha's personality and his work ethic. This interview from www.cbssports.com offers a nice glimpse into Hau'oli Kikaha's mindset, which is the mindset of a strong competitor. Kikaha has the raw ability, work ethic, and personality to be next year's version of J.J. Watt....provided he can stay healthy. I'll excerpt a few parts of the interview below:
"Q: You have torn the ACL in your left knee twice, basically missing the 2011 and 2012 seasons. But you returned healthy last year and led the team in sacks. Talk about the hurdles both physically and mentally for you to rebound from those setbacks?
A: Anytime you get an injury, it changes your role on the team. That is something that impacted me for a while. I was sidelined, taken away, which changed my leadership role. It was difficult, but allowed me to strengthen things in the weight room, get a better bench. Not being on the field was tough. I had great teammates beside me. The rehab was nine months for each tear. Two seasons in a row was heartbreaking. But I have the best surgeon in the country (Dr. Edward Khalfayan); he walked me through every step and made sure my rehab was on point, checking in and helping me get back up to speed and feeling 100-percent.
There was a lot of mental growth, the injuries taught me to be patient. I got to play as a freshman so I thought I would get in and get out and be on my way, but the injuries taught me to invest more in the program, allowed me to get coached up in the film room.
Q: Do you worry about injuring your knee a third time? Is it something in the back of your mind?
A: No, I really am extremely confident in my surgeon and the technique that he used was different than the initial surgery, one that is proven to be more successful. I don't want to brag about work ethic, but I wasn't holding anything back. With the great trainers we have, I was working out every day. Definitely went non-stop.
Q: What position do you want to play at the next level?
A: I need to get after that quarterback, that's my preferred position." (source www.cbssports.com)
These excerpts say it all. Kikaha goes out there and works hard to be his best. While his injuries took him off the field, he used that time to improve himself mentally. Some guys go home and feel sorry for themselves after an injury. Hau'oli Kikaha went back to work in the film room to find ways to get better. This is a hard-working young man brimming with confidence, both in himself and in the people around him. Kikaha's work ethic and confidence also carry over onto the practice field. Here's some footage of him in practice. We might be talkin' 'bout practice, but Kikaha's strong effort in practice carries over to game day. Here's some footage of Hau'oli Kikaha playing against Hawaii.
At the end of the day, Kikaha is a solid NFL prospect with massive injury concerns. If you're drafting him in the first round as the centerpiece of your defense, you might be disappointed since he may not stay healthy. However, if you're picking him at the end of the first or early in the second round to augment an already solid defense, then Kikaha could become an outstanding value pick and might even make a run at defensive rookie of the year in 2015. He's definitely one of the more intriguing defensive players going into the draft, and could be a solid starter in the NFL for years to come.
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