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Saturday, December 20, 2014         

FERD'S WORDS


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For Salas, getting draft call will prove wait was worth it

By Ferd Lewis

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If his time at the University of Hawaii has prepared receiver Greg Salas for anything, it is the wait for an NFL team to call his name these next few expectation-filled days.

For all he learned about catching passes and running routes in Manoa, what Salas' five-year stay with the Warriors really honed was his patience.

Salas, befitting someone who holds the school record for receiving yards, knows how to go up and get a ball amid the sandwich of double coverage and he can lay down a pretty good downfield block. A lesson learned along the way was how to wait.

It is a good virtue to possess and one that figures to come in handy as the annual NFL Draft runs through its first round today and the drama and hopes build for subsequent rounds tomorrow and Saturday.

The expectation is that Salas will be taken somewhere between the late third round and mid-fifth round, which means a call tomorrow or Saturday. That would make him the highest-taken UH receiver since Ashley Lelie, a first-round selection in 2002.

But for Salas the road to a celebrity at UH was a while in coming. Certainly longer than it would have been at many other schools. At times it must have seemed like a lumbering dream that would never get there.

He can tell you, for instance, how he redshirted his first year and mostly watched for another. He can recall with a smile now how his first couple of years on campus when someone would hear that he might be a football player they would inevitably ask, “Do you ever play?”

And he’d bite back the temptation to tell them confidently, “Just wait, you'll see” in favor of explaining he was stuck behind Davone Bess, Ryan Grice-Mullen, Jason Rivers and C.J. Hawthorne, a bunch of receivers people had heard of.

It was known as paying his dues and waiting his turn and Salas did plenty of both. All the while, regular visitors to the Warriors’ practices would marvel at his one-handed snares and spread the word about his acrobatic catches to the point that he gained a cult following.

Unfortunately, the one thing he couldn’t grab amid the logjam ahead of him was immediate playing time. And that couldn’t have always been easy for someone who showed in practice that he could be something special.

For the longest time Salas was a practice field All-American waiting for time to prove he could play on a real one under the bright lights.

If he chafed at the hand dealt him, for the most part Salas masked it well. If he considered transferring somewhere else, he was mature enough to think things through.

Just as important, Salas focused on improving his craft and building himself up to look like the on-the-field third-team Associated Press All-American he would become.

Maybe that’s why, when he did get on the field, he played like he belonged there. Beginning with a touchdown in his first game and an eye-opening breakout game as a sophomore at Florida, Salas displayed an unmistakable it-is-my-time resolve.

For Salas, the wait this week to see his name crawl across the TV screen comes with the realization that it is payoff time on all that hard-learned patience.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@staradvertiser.com.






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