Shalom Luani story by Raiders.com staff/Cole Hikutini story by Jeremy Keown SB Nation
After trading out of the sixth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders ended up with four seventh round picks. The first selection of those four was Washington State University defensive back Shalom Luani.
Here’s a look at five things you should know:
The region of Pago Pago is commonly known as a string of villages, but Pago Pago is the capital of American Samoa. It was also the site of coaling and a repair station for the U.S. Navy between 1878 to 1951.
He’s an established soccer player.
Not only is Luani an athletic football player, but he’s an incredible soccer player that’s played for the American Samoa Football Association Soccer League. He scored in the first-ever FIFA-sanctioned win against Tonga, and was slotted at the forward position. Aside from playing in high school, he was called up to the American Samoa senior team.
Luani is familiar with the Bay Area.
Following his participation in American Samoa soccer, he headed to Chabot College of California in 2012, located in Hayward, Calif. After a season with the team, he joined the football team at City College of San Francisco, eventually being recruited by Washington State.
He’s a physical defensive back.
In his 5’11”, 202-pound frame, the former Cougar is known for his hard-hitting style of play. Luani is a quick and agile when it comes to playing the ball, and Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie emphasized to the media Friday that he’s a “playmaker.”
The 49ers have signed former Louisville tight end Cole Hikutini to an undrafted free agent contract.
The tight end will leave Louisville as one of its most productive threats in the passing game. He lead the team in 2016 in both receptions (50) and touchdown receptions (8), while second on the team in receiving yards (668). The 6’4” Hikutini had a slow start in his first year playing for the Cardinals, logging 19 receptions for 348 yards and 3 touchdowns. However, Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino quickly found a way to utilize the vertical threat.
Hikutini was another “hidden gem” that Petrino found to plug in to his offense. Cole made his way to the ‘Ville via the JUCO route, where the Sacramento, California, product originally started his playing career at City College of San Fransisco.
Scouts love Hikutini’s size and his ability to run routes well and get linebackers/safeties out of position. He’s able to run the seam routes well, able to accelerate and get separation from defenders to make it easier on the quarterback, and has very good hands. Cole is also a big threat in goal line situations, where he is able to grab and bring down the 50/50 balls.
The big thing that NFL teams want Hikutini to improve upon is his physicality and toughness as a blocker. He’ll also need to work on getting a little stronger so he doesn’t get the ball stripped from him in the NFL.