Greg Salas would not be one of the top Hawaii football players and, as of yesterday, a semifinalist for the Fred Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s best receiver if it were not for a videotape.
The tale of the tape began when Mark Salas used a VHS camera to record his son’s Chino High (Calif.) football games.
Greg Salas and family friend Jeanne Barbosa then spent hours splicing and editing to create a highlight tape that would be sent to several Division I-A and I-AA football programs across the country in the fall of 2005.
One of the copies ended up with Ron Lee, who was the Warriors’ receivers coach under head coach June Jones at the time. The copy might have remained obscured among hundreds of others, if it weren’t for Barbosa’s persistence.
"She kept calling," Lee recalled. "I looked at the tape. Gosh, he was athletic."
Lee was impressed with Salas’ quickness, 6-foot-2 build, and sure hands.
"He had the natural ability to make catches, just like Davone (Bess)," Lee said, a reference to the former UH slotback who now plays for the Miami Dolphins.
There was one catch to all of the catches: The video focused largely on Salas’ play at cornerback.
"He was making some spectacular plays on defense," Lee said.
Lee showed the video to Jones, who agreed that Salas had the potential to play receiver. The Warriors decided to invite Salas on a recruiting trip.
"Jeanne called me, and said, ‘His name is Ron, and Hawaii wants to trip you,’" Salas recalled. He then asked his parents to join him. In accordance with NCAA rules, they paid their own way.
"My parents were with me through all of the steps," Salas said.
At the end of the 48-hour trip, Jones offered Salas a scholarship.
"He was great about the whole thing," Salas said. "He stressed I should take more visits (to other schools)."
Salas visited New Mexico, but, soon after, turned down other offers, including one from Utah, to commit to UH.
Fast forward. Salas auditioned at receiver; redshirted in 2006; backed up left wideout Jason Rivers in 2007; started at left wideout in 2008, Greg McMackin’s first year as UH head coach; and moved to slotback in 2009, when he caught 106 passes for 1,590 yards and eight touchdowns.
"He had a great year last year," UH offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich said. "We talked about him becoming a complete player, a team leader. He took that challenge. He had a great offseason. He has a lot of desire. He catches everything. I hope he finishes the year strong."
As for being named one of 10 semifinalists for the Biletnikoff Award, Rolovich said, "That’s not a surprise. He’s one of the best. That shouldn’t be big news."
For Salas, the nomination was meaningful. Biletnikoff had a long career with the Oakland Raiders.
"I’ve been a Raider fan my whole life," Salas said. "My favorite player (Charles Woodson) ended up going to the Raiders."
Salas said he has been involved with football most of his life.
"I’ve been watching it ever since I can remember," he said. "I’ve been playing it since I was old enough to play."
He is expected to continue playing at the next level. Pro scouts have attended UH’s practices and games on the road this year.
For now, he is enjoying his last semester in his adopted home. He said many assume he was raised in Hawaii.
"They ask me, ‘What high school did you go to,’" Salas said. "They think I’m local."
And why not? He has a preference for local food. "I love garlic chicken, chicken katsu, mac salad," he said.
"If (the rice is) not sticky, I don’t want to eat it," he said.
GREG SALAS’ 2010 SEASON BY GAME