You’ll find very few players from the draft with a more fascinating backstory than Washington State’s Shalom Luani. In 2011, Luani was playing the other football for his country — American Samoa — as just a 17-year old, when he found himself in a World Cup Qualifying Match against Tonga. As it turned out, Luani scored the eventual game-winning goal in the 2-1 victory — his country’s first win in seventeen years of international play. Coincidentally, Luani was also just 17 at the time.
Fast-forward four years, and Luani had converted to American football and was playing safety at Washington State — now, two years later, he’s a member of the Oakland Raiders after he was selected with pick No. 221.
Weight: 202 lbs
Arm Length: 31"
Hand Size: 9 3/4"
40-yard dash: 4.55
2016: 67 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 2 SK, 4 INT, 1 FF
2015: 90 tackles, 3 TFL, 4 INT, 2 FF, 1 FR, 1 TD
In just two years of play, Luani had 157 tackles, 11.5 TFL and 8 INT, which is impressive anywhere, let alone in a Power 5 Conference. Part of the reason he was so productive was his athleticism — his 60-yard shuttle time was the fastest among safeties (11.22), and he also posted a 4.55 40-yard dash time at the combine (8th among safeties), 4.21 20-yard shuttle (8th among safeties) and a 6.87 3-Cone Drill (6th among safeties).
But if you ask Reggie McKenzie, he’s more than just an athlete:
“That guy is a playmaker. You can look at one quarter of football and you know he loves the game. He’s very aware as a football player. You can tell he’s a student of the game. You can tell he loves the game. He is a, as they say down south, a football playing Jessie. Whatever that means. (laughing) It’s a country saying, but that’s what he is. He’s tough. He’s physical. He has ball skills. He can kind of do it all.”
While his tackle number are impressive, they could have been better. He was credited with 31 missed tackles over the past two seasons — something that isn’t acceptable for a guy who is often the last line of defense.
The word with Luani appears to be ‘raw’. He has only been playing football since his freshman year of high school, and while he has elite athleticism, it appears as if the fundamentals haven’t caught up yet.
What he brings to the Raiders:
He’s what you draw up when you imagine a special teams contributor: a willing tackler with speed and athleticism. Add in the fact that the Raiders lost a handful of their best special teamers and Luani has a real shot to stick in Oakland.
If he can prove himself on special teams, he’ll be an interesting guy to watch develop over the next year or two. If the Oakland coaches can clean up the missed tackles, he could slide into the No. 3 safety role down the road.