By Zach Sandlin and Hiapo Kinloha 

The off-season is wrapping up rather quickly. It seems like Week 1 is just around the corner. And yet  this class of rookies seem to think that it can’t get here quick enough. Signings are rolling out every day as teams try to complete their rosters and construct a team strong enough to defy nature and conquer the Alaska Storm. It has been a very exciting off-season with plenty of big signings and moving parts. Some players crossed into enemy territory, others have just disappeared, but the most exciting thing of all happened on the ‘Day of Days’. The most infamous of days. The day that changed the lives of many rookies….the Season 12 Draft.

I met up with my good friend, but soon to be hated enemy (you were like a brother to me!) , Hiapo Kinloha. We did a little catching up as we gathered our things and got ready to move to our new homes. The following is a transcript of the conversation that somehow got recorded (I’m looking at you Slinn).

ZS: Hiapo! What’s up bud?! Congratulations!
HK: Hey man! Same to you! It’s hard to believe we got this far.

ZS: No kidding man! All this hard work has finally paid off. Although, tight end? I thought you were gonna be the next Christian Christiansen?
HK: Well man, when I was in Hawaii and I got my high school coach to send tape of me playing tight end as well and it landed me in Denver.

ZS: I forgot you were from Hawaii. That’s gotta be quite a shock for you. Sandy beaches and sunshine to thin mountain air and snow. Lot of teams contacting you? Or were you phoning owners and GMs?
HK: It’s honestly been pretty laidback, but I have just been working out alot. How about yourself?

ZS: Me? Well, I’ve been sending e-mails and making phone calls since the day I got here. I think some of those guys got tired of hearing from me. I sent one tape to Dallas of me totin’ the rock and they liked that a lot apparently. Even with my performance in the showcase game.
HK: Yeah, since I joined I have been contacting GM’s, owners, and even players, just trying to see what teams needed and what teams were really looking for. And yes, it’s crazy in Denver, no doubt about that. The rookie showcase game wasn’t really a good showing for me. I got the ball thrown to me once and I missed it so the fact I went 4th overall in the draft shocked me.

Josh Miller will be pleased he has another solid weapon to throw to this season. Kinloha should get some space on the field with the defence being focused in on deep threat, Jockamo Jones.

ZS: Well your gametape must’ve been real impressive. I thought you did well as a total Tight End. May have only gotten one ball thrown your way but you blocked well and seemed to run some pretty crisp routes. What was Draft night like for you?
HK: Man, draft day was crazy! I woke super early that day and went straight to the gym. Worked out for probably 3 hours and then I wanted to relax so I went to one of my wife’s yoga classes with her. After that, I called all my family to have a family cook out and watch the draft. Going into the draft, I kept thinking, “Man, my rookie showcase game, I did a really bad job. Maybe I won’t even get drafted.”I was praying while every team was on the clock that I would get that call and, when OKC was up on the clock, I heard my phone go off. I hurried up and grabbed it and saw I had a message on it from Jeremy Vega. I looked at the screen and I saw that they were next. Man, my face lit up like a christmas tree and he asked me whether I would rather play tight end or linebacker. I answered “tight end“. After that, I heard the Denver pick was in and my name was called. I ran and jumped into the ocean right by my house and took a swim for my victory! How about yourself?

ZS: Dude, my day was not even half that exciting! I got up, fixed a cup of coffee, ate a blueberry bagel for breakfast and just generally worked on straightening up the house for my wife while she was at work. Draft time came a lot faster than I expected, so I turned on the TV just in time to see the STL pick come in. I was a little down that I didn’t get picked, because the owner had talked to me a lot the day before. But I didn’t get too discouraged. I saw Dallas was on the clock and remembered that their GM had asked me if I’d ever played running back. I sent him my tape, cuz I had been an Ironman athlete in college and he seemed very excited about it. Then my name randomly popped on the screen during their pick and I freaked. I was like what?!? Why did my name just pop up and go away? Then my phone started ringing and it was the Dallas GM saying they were going to wait until after the announcement, but a system hiccup had ruined the surprise. I was going crazy. Then they told me I was going to be a RB and I was even more crazy. I questioned whether they were actually sure. I had had a pretty good showcase game as a linebacker. They were sure and here we are. I was on cloud 9.
HK: Yea man, the other players were not lieing when they told me that draft day was nerve racking and exciting, all at the same time

ZS: I didn’t believe them either. But hearing my name called out during that broadcast was just amazing.
HK: Yea man, but hey, we are just getting started and from this point forward we’ve got everything to prove to our teams and fellow players.

ZS: You’re right man. Gotta get on that grind. Alright, wife just called and said dinner is ready so I’m going to head on out of here. Good seeing you man! Best of luck to you this season!
HK: You too man! We really need to have lunch some time before I head to Denver!

And with that we parted ways, riding off into our own respective sunsets – well, metaphorical sunsets. This journey of zero to potential hero of a rookie to draft night has been an exhilarating and emotional rollercoaster that left me wanting more. I think I speak for all of this rookie class when I say that Week 1 can’t some soon enough.