WSU safety Shalom Luani hoping to show he belongs in what is regarded as a really good year at that position in the NFL Draft.
Washington State University safety Shalom Luani’s goal at the NFL Combine is to “put myself out there” and make something of a name for himself.
He couldn’t have picked a more difficult year to try as the safety corps is regarded as especially deep. Lindy’s Draft Preview wrote that it is the deepest safety position since 1981, a year that included Hall of Famers Kenny Easley of the Seahawks and Ronnie Lott.
And that means the Combine looms as especially critical for a player like Luami, considered a likely third-day pick.
“It’s a huge experience for me.,” he said Sunday. “It’s been great being here, getting this opportunity to put myself out there. Just looking forward to proving I can do it.”
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Luani also hope to show he can play either safety spot, which he knows would increase his value.
“I told them I’m just an aggressive person, playmaker and a ball hawk,” Luami said of how he describes himself to teams. “I like to be around the ball and come down and make plays.”
And even in a deep group of safeties, Luani, who was a first team All-Pac-12 pick at safety as a senior in 2016, says he has looked around this week and concluded he fits right in.
“I feel like I belong here,” he said. “I’ve overcome a lot of obstacles. I’ve worked my way up here.”
Indeed, few of the 330 players at the Combine have a story as unique as Luami’s. He grew up in Samoa playing soocer as well as American football and made a decision prior to representing American Samoa at the 2012 International Federation of American Football World U-19 Championship in Austin, Texas, that he would stay in the United States to pursue a football career.
He eventually landed at City College of San Francisco and eventually WSU, where he became an immediate standout in a secondary that proved a key in lifting the Cougars to bowl games in 2015 and 2016.
In many other years, that might be enough to get Luani on a lot of draft boards. But with so many good safeties available this year Luani could be again fighting uphill a bit to get his name out there.
He measured 5-11, 202 and said he would have liked to have weighed more but that “I would say my weight doesn’t matter.”
Some have wondered if he could be a slot cornerback. But Luani said NFL teams he has talked to here see him as a safety, of either type. Among the teams he said he has talked with are the Seahawks, who are in the market for some young safeties to beef up the depth behind standout veterans Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.
Growing up in American Samoa, he said his football watching as a kid was often limited to the big games, such as the Super Bowl. The Combine was something he said he only began learning about recently. He said he has talked former WSU assistant Joe Salave’a, who led his recruitment to the school and is now at Oregon, in his preparation for the Combine.
“Growing up I didn’t know very much about all this Combine,” he said. “But I’m glad to be in it.”