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Former University of Hawaii DB among 3 with Hawaii ties joining NFL

  • DENNIS ODA / 2014

    Nick Nelson, right, played two seasons (2014 and 2015) for the Rainbow Warriors.

Three players with Hawaii ties will get their chance in the National Football League.

Defensive back Nick Nelson, who played two seasons at the University of Hawaii before finishing his career at Wisconsin, Hercules Mata’afa, who starred at Lahainaluna and Washington State, and Oregon State’s Manase Hungalu, who played at Kealakehe, will be headed to NFL teams.

Nelson was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the fourth round, the 110th player overall, while Mata’afa and Hungalu went undrafted after seven rounds. The three-day NFL Draft was completed on Saturday with 256 players being selected.

Mata’afa signed as a free agent with the Minnesota Vikings, according to cougcenter.com. Hungalu also signed as a free agent with the Cleveland Browns, according to a Beavers website.

Nelson, who was born in South Carolina and lists his hometown as Glenarden, Md., played two seasons (2014 and 2015) for the Rainbow Warriors. He started all 13 games in 2015, before transferring to the Badgers. He redshirted in 2016 and became an all-Big Ten first-team selection in 2017.

The 5-foot-11, 200-pound cornerback ran a 4.52 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine and did 17 reps of 225.

Nelson suffered a meniscus injury during an individual workout for an NFL team, knocking his draft stock down.

Mata’afa is an undersized defensive tackle at 6-1 and 254 pounds, whose first-step quickness helped him compile a remarkable 47 tackles for losses and 22.5 sacks in his career.

Hungalu is 6-0, 238 pounds, ran the 40 in 4.69, did 21 reps of 225 and had a 32 1/2 vertical at his pro day. He was the team’s captain and recorded a 20-tackle game against Cal last season.

Other free-agent candidates who played at Hawaii high schools include Utah’s Kavika Luafatasaga (Farrington), Oregon’s Scott Pagano (Moanalua) and Florida Atlantic’s Jeremiah Taleni (Kailua).

The last player picked in the draft — honored with the label of Mr. Irrelevent — was Trey Quinn, the go-to receiver for SMU, whose other receiver, Courtland Sutton, was drafted in the second round by the Denver Broncos.

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For more Hawaii football, visit the Warrior Beat blog.

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