METAIRIE, La. >> Hau‘oli Kikaha, who set records for sacks with the Washington Huskies, jokes that he “almost forgot” which knee he blew out twice in college.
Given the way he’s played the past two seasons, it doesn’t look like his injury history will be a significant liability, and the New Orleans Saints showed their confidence in Kikaha’s fitness by making him their second-round draft choice at 44th overall on Friday.
“It was pretty hard for me to take,” said Kikaha, a Kahuku graduate, of the left anterior cruciate ligament tears that sidelined him for most of 2011 and all of 2012. “But they’re in the past and I’ve overcome those things with my family’s help and support, and coaching and friends that brought me through those times.
“I’m glad those are long in the past and I’ve been able to excel since then.”
The Saints used their first of two third-round draft picks on Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson, a possible heir apparent to 36-year-old record-setting quarterback Drew Brees.
“I’m just extremely excited to get behind him and learn as much as I can,” Grayson, taken 75th overall, said of Brees. “I have no problem sitting behind a (potential) Hall-of-Famer like Drew Brees just like Aaron (Rodgers) did with Brett Favre. This really is — and I’m not just saying this — it really is a dream come true for me.”
Coach Sean Payton dismissed the notion that Brees should feel threatened just because the Saints drafted a quarterback in the third round.
“It would be different if all of a sudden we’re taking a quarterback in the first round,” Payton said. “But in our case it’s pretty clear: We love our starter.”
The Saints then took Florida State cornerback P.J. Williams with the 78th overall choice acquired from Miami, along with linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, in a trade that sent receiver Kenny Stills to the Dolphins.
The 6-foot-2, 253-pound Kikaha gives the Saints a powerful pass-rusher from the edge, something the club could use after its defense ranked 23rd in the NFL in sacks per pass attempt last season.
In 2014, Kikaha led all Division I Football Bowl Subdivision players in sacks with 19 en route to finishing his Huskies career with a school record 36 sacks, and was named an Associated Press first-team All-American.
Kikaha had a sack in 13 of 14 games last season and his 25 tackles for losses ranked second nationally. He also had 13 sacks in 2013, when he was named first-team All-Pac-12.
His Washington school records also include: career tackle-for-loss yards (275), single-season sacks (19 in 2014), single-season tackles for loss (25 in 2014) and single-season tackle-for-loss yards (139 in 2014).
Kikaha has advanced training in martial arts, including judo, which said has helped him in football.
“The core fundamentals of those sports are based on balance and power and angles, not to mention hand-fighting — all of those things go into what a pass rusher does,” Kikaha said.