ST. PETERSBURG — Salesi Uhatafe is back in his hometown, and though he moved to Texas when he was still a baby, it’s very much a homecoming as the former Utah offensive lineman plays in Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field.
"I’ll probably have about 40 people coming," said Uhatafe, a 6-foot-5, 320-pound guard who will play for the West team. "I have a whole bunch of aunts, and they all have kids."
Uhatafe’s family hails from the Polynesian kingdom of Tonga, and he has followed much the same path his local cousins have taken. Jon Halapio, who played at St. Petersburg Catholic and at Florida, played 10 games with the New York Giants this season, and another cousin, Saiosi Uhatafe, played defensive line at Gibbs High and USF.
Uhatafe, 23, goes by "Leka," which means "junior," and he’s hoping a strong week can help his chances of being taken in the NFL draft.
"Just trying to promote myself," Uhatafe said after Monday’s practice at St. Petersburg High. "I’m not really into social media, so I do my promoting on the field."
Former USF QB Quinton Flowers worked out of the shotgun in a record-setting career with the Bulls, but there was some transition Monday as he worked under center at the East team’s first practice.
After two snaps were fumbled on the exchange, coaches briefly took Flowers aside and had him work with Oklahoma State center Brad Lundblade on getting a clean exchange. Flowers returned to the team practice with no additional problems.
This and that
Bucs general manager Jason Licht and director of player personnel John Spytek were among the NFL scouts and front office personnel at both practices Monday. Former Bucs QB Doug Williams, now in Washington’s front office, was at the morning practice at Shorecrest Prep. … Keep an eye on former Fordham RB Chase Edmonds, who had ridiculous numbers in his first three years of college: 5,185 rushing yards and 62 touchdowns. He was limited to seven games as a senior due to ankle and hamstring injuries but looked healthy and quick in Monday’s East practice. … Want size? The East roster has a 6-foot-7 punter in Bowling Green’s Joseph Davidson, and the West team has a massive offensive lineman in Washington State’s Cody O’Connell, who is 6-9 and 368 pounds.