Who is Hau’oli Kikaha? Well for one, he’s somebody the New Orleans Saints feel very confident in after selecting the Washington Huskies standout pass rusher with the No. 44 overall pick in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Born in Laie, Hawaii and raised in Hau’ula on the island of Oahu, Kikaha played his high school football at Kahuku High in Honolulu where played defensive end and tight end, becoming the Honolulu Star-Bulletin defensive player of the year in the state of Hawaii as a senior.
He led Kahuku to a 12-1 record and a spot in the state championship game. Following his senior campaing, Kikaha played in the Hawaii/Polynesian Mainland Bowl.
In addition to his football achievements, Hau’oli Kikaha was a Judo champion. He went on to sign with Washington as a three-star recruit by Rivals.com.
As a true freshman, he played in all 13 games for the Huskies, starting the final seven at defensive end. He recorded 49 total tackles and eight for loss before shining in the Holiday Bowl with four tackles, three for a loss and one sack.
Hau’oli Kikaha would face some setbacks in 2011 and 2012. He started the first four games in 2011 before suffering a season-ending knee injury. The same thing happened at fall camp in 2012 — he didn’t see a single snap that year.
However, his best traits are his resilience and relentlessness. In 2013, Kikaha made a complete bounce back, earning first-team Academic All-Pac 12 as a student athelete and second-team All-Pac 12 for his performance on the field. He led the Huskies with a team-high 13 sacks, just 1.5 short of the school record.
But 2014 would be even bigger. Hau’oli Kikaha led the FBS in sacks with 19, breaking numerous school records before heading to the draft. His records include career sacks (36), career tackles for loss yards (275), a staggering single-season sacks record (19), single-season tackles for loss (25), and single-season tackles for loss yards (139). All single-season records came in 2014.
Kikaha will likely come in to New Orleans and compete immediately as the rookie class’ most polished pass rusher. Some say he was drafted a little high because of his injury track record. However, setbacks aside, we’re looking at a first-round talent.
Former New Orleans Saints linebacker Scott Shanle worked out with Hau’oli for two months prior to the 2015 NFL Draft, telling The Times-Picayune columnist Larry Holder that he’s got a great future in the NFL as a hard, passionate worker with a great personality.
Shanle can be thanked for the selection of Hau’oli Kikaha if he pans out for the Saints. He was basically head coach Sean Payton and linebackers coach Joe Vitt’s scout for the former Washington standout with nothing but good things to say.
NFL.com compares Kikaha to former Saints and current New England Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich, a guy Payton let slip through his hands several years back. Coach Payton refuses to let that happen again.
With Pro Bowl potential, Kikaha has the skill set, passion, toughness, mean motor and determination to be the next best pass rusher down on the bayou and a true leader on and off the field.
Stats courtesy of GoHuskies.com
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