|National Football League|
Panthers select OG Silatolu from in second round
By STEVE REED
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Panthers added some nastiness to their offensive line Friday night, selecting guard Amini Silatolu from Midwestern State in the second round of the NFL draft.
The 6-foot-3, 320-pound Silatolu was a dominant blocker for the Division II school located in Wichita Falls, Texas.
He played left tackle for two seasons for the Mustangs after failing to qualify academically at Nevada and sitting out the 2009 season. He posted 97 knockdowns while playing left tackle. The Panthers see him taking over at left guard for Travelle Wharton, who was released earlier this year.
"The one thing that stands out is his nasty temperament," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. "When you're playing at a certain level like that you should dominate - and he did dominate the competition. So you feel like going to the next level he's going to be very, very competitive."
Added general manager Marty Hurney: "When you put on the tape of him he puts a lot of people on the ground. You see the athleticism and the physical play."
Silatolu said he never realized how aggressive he was until he started watching himself on tape.
"That's just how I like to play the game," Silatolu said. "That's how it should be played."
Silatolu said he was surprised he was drafted so early, but is excited to join the Panthers and have a chance to start right away.
The Panthers became convinced he had the skill set to play at the NFL level after watching hours of tape and seeing him in the Senior Bowl.
Rivera remembers the first time he saw Silatolu on tape. He was walking by Hurney's office and happened to poke his head in. Hurney looked at him and said, "Come see this kid finish."
Rivera was impressed right away.
"The first thing you saw was him finishing people and you're like, `Gosh, I hope a guy that like that is around for us,'" Rivera said. "Lo and behold three months later he's part of our team. He's an exciting guy to watch."
The Panthers aren't concerned that Silatolu didn't play against top-notch competition.
"The one thing you are always concerned with is if at any point when you play at level and you have moments where you say, `Oh he's just a guy,'" Rivera said. "But you never had those moments where you felt he was just a guy. You felt like he was going to be more physical than the guy he played against and he did that.
"I think the transition to our level should be fairly easy for him."
Silatolu believes that, too. But that wasn't always the case.
In 2009, Silatolu thought his dream of playing in the NFL was dying. After spending two years playing junior college ball at San Joaquin Delta College he signed with Nevada. But for the second time in his life his grades prevented him from playing at college's top level and he was forced to sit out a year.
Compounding a miserable year, he lost his grandmother and uncle. The last thing on his mind was playing in the NFL. At that point, he just wanted to play football - anywhere.
With a new sense of motivation, he quickly turned into a dominant player.
"I just started balling out," Silatolu said. "And here I am today in the NFL."
Hurney said the Panthers had some opportunities to move back in the second round, but decided against it when Silatolu was on the board.
They took him at No. 40 and didn't look back.
"I think offensive line is always an area you have to keep strong," Hurney said. "I believe if the right guy is there you draft him because that's a position where if you get hit by injuries it gets depleted and I think that's the one spot that can affect your team the quickest."
The Panthers drafted another aggressive player in linebacker Luke Kuechly from Boston College with their first-round pick.
Updated April 27, 2012