Hau'oli Kikaha doesn't care where he has to play or what he's asked to do. He's ready to compete for a job, earn snaps, and make an impact in the NFL.
But even the most driven, most competitive people have limits. And while explaining that he's ready to do whatever it takes to make sure the New Orleans Saints don't ever regret selecting him with the 44th overall pick in the draft, he revealed that there could be a limit to how far he's willing to go to win a job.
" I have a job to do, which is compete any place they put me in," he said. "Hopefully, they don't put me at quarterback. But if I have to compete there, I will."
Why not quarterback?
"I just figured Drew Brees is kind of hard to compete against," the University of Washington prospect said. "But anything can be done, I guess."
Kikaha doesn't have to worry about that. The outside linebacker was brought here to do a job: Get after guys like Brees as frequently and consistently as possible. If his college career is any indication, the Saints might have found one of the better guys for the task.
Statistics have their limits. Sometimes they're misleading and don't tell an honest story, but it's hard to deny what's on Kikaha's sheet. Over 14 games last season, he recorded 19 sacks, and 25 of his 72 tackles were for a loss of yards. Was it a fluke? As a junior, Kikaha finished with 13 sacks and 15.5 tackles for a loss.
Those numbers came after he twice tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, which caused him to miss most of the 2011 season and all of the 2012 season. Kikaha said his knee is no longer an issue, and he's so far removed from the issue that he had to pause to remember which knee he injured.
" It was a rough period, and I’m glad those are long in the past," he said. "I’ve been able to excel since then.”
The Saints rounded out their draft by selecting Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson and Florida State cornerback P.J. Williams in the third round.
That will be the job Kikaha competing for in New Orleans -- as a pass rusher. The initial projection is that he will likely be a situational pass rusher and possibly split snaps with Junior Galette on early downs, when there is a threat of the offense running the ball. If both Kikaha and Galette were on the field in early situations, it could leave the Saints susceptible to giving up big runs.
Entering the draft, finding another pass rusher was considered one of New Orleans' biggest needs. After recording 49 snacks in 2013, that figured dipped to 34 last season, which placed the Saints 25th in the NFL.
If Kikaha can bring his production from Washington into the NFL, and with the help of an improved secondary that saw New Orleans sign cornerback Brandon Browner this offseason, the hope is that the defense will inch closer to its 2013 form.
Kikaha said that he was given the impression the Saints liked him early in the process after meeting with the team at the combine and his pro day. They stayed in contact with the linebacker after meeting with him, but at some point the contact dissipated, leaving him wondering -- until he received the call from the team Fridayevening.
Coming to New Orleans, he might have a bit of a head start after spending two months during the offseason working out with former Saints linebacker Scott Shanle. While Shanle did not play under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, he's familiar with coach Sean Payton, who he played under from 2006-2012.
On Twitter, Shanle said Kikaha spoke to him daily and was constantly looking for tips about playing in the NFL.
"(He) has a thirst for knowledge," Shanle wrote. "Brought my old film and playbooks to study!"
The knowledge will help. The talent is already there. The question, though, is where does it come from? Some of it, at least, is in part to Kikaha's background as a judo champion and wrestler.
Participating in those sports helped him develop good balance and provided him with hand-to-hand combat skills that help him fight off offensive linemen.
"All of those things go into what a pass rusher does, and practicing for over eight years has helped me develop all of those fundamentals that we translate on the football field," he said.
They've already translated to the field. Now they need to translate to the next level.