As a rookie in his first National Football League training camp, Ray Hisatake of the Carolina Panthers has been experiencing bouts of anxiousness.
"It can happen any day," said Hisatake, a former University of Hawaii offensive lineman whose girlfriend, Charysse Bardallo, is expecting the couple’s first child. "Being 6 hours away is hard."
The couple picked out two names: Jonah for a boy, Charlotte for a girl. Jonah is the name of Hisatake’s brother.
"Charysse liked ‘Charlotte’ for a girl," Hisatake said. "When the Panthers signed me (in April), she said it was a sign because the Panthers are in Charlotte."
Hisatake also is marveling about an opportunity in a football career that is, relatively, in its infancy.
Hisatake’s high school did not field a football team. He was a defensive lineman at College of San Mateo and in his first year at UH. He was a backup offensive lineman as a junior in 2008, then a full-time starter last year.
In April, he was neither drafted nor discouraged. Hours after the NFL Draft, he reached an agreement on a three-year, free-agent contract with the Panthers.
He described his limited experience as a "blessing," noting he has not had any serious injuries.
The Panthers told his agent, Leo Goeas, that Hisatake does not have any bad football-related habits. After all, Hisatake’s only football instruction was on the collegiate and pro levels.
"Some people have done things for so long, they don’t want to adjust to something new," Hisatake said. "I’m more of, ‘You tell me what to do, and I’ll do it.’"
Hisatake participated in the Panthers’ rookie camp and minicamp. He has worked as the No. 2 left guard.
"I don’t know if it’s permanent," he said of his depth-chart position, "but they had me there."
In UH’s four-wide passing attack, the offensive linemen usually set up in a two-point stance. The Panthers require their linemen to be in a three-point stance.
"I still feel a little uncomfortable in the three-point," he said. "When I look at myself (on videos), I feel I don’t look right. I’m learning to adjust. The first day (of camp), they said, ‘Get in the three-point stance,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, all right.’ "
A greater adjustment is learning a new system.
"The biggest difference in the NFL is the mental side," Hisatake said. "You hear it a lot, but it’s true. There are so many things I have to adjust to now. It’s a completely different system. The terminology is different. Not only am I worrying about the (tackle) box — the front seven — I have to check the corners and safeties, if they’re in a man or zone or two-high. At this level, there are so many different things I have to learn."
Hisatake said he already has earned a nickname from teammates.
"They call me Kemo," he said, a reference to Maake Kemoeatu, a Kahuku High graduate and former Panther. "They started doing that. I guess I’m Kemo."