OG Ray Hisatake (AP)
Over the last few months, Ray Hisatake's world has been flipped upside down. He's moved from Hawaii to Carolina; he's gone from a pass-happy team to a grind-it-out group; and he's dropped all the way down the totem pole. As he starts his climb back up, he checks in with PantherInsider.com.
Ray Hisatake wasn’t surprised when he went undrafted. He watched the NFL Draft from Hawaii along with his sister and his expectant girlfriend, but his main reason for tuning in was to root for his friends and former opponents.
The surprise came when the Carolina Panthers offered him a contract. While Hisatake planned on signing somewhere as an undrafted free agent, he never expected to join a run-first offense.
“It’s weird because Hawaii and the Panthers are two completely different offenses,” Hisatake told PantherInsider.com. “In Hawaii, all we do is throw the ball. Now I’m coming to a club where we mainly run the ball. The transition has been tough. I think my pass protection is what got me noticed at Hawaii.”
It’s not that Hisatake isn’t excited for the opportunity. He is essentially a blank canvas and hopes offensive line coach Dave Magazu can help him fulfill his potential.
Hisatake, for all his accomplishments, is more potential than production. After not playing high school ball, he started his college career at the College of San Mateo. He spent two seasons as a defensive tackle for the Bulldogs before transferring to Hawaii and moving to the offensive side of the ball.
“I think what Carolina sees in me is just the upside of the potential that I have to learn to pick up the game,” he said. “They see something in me that they can build on.”
Physically, Hisatake has everything the Panthers look for in offensive linemen. He is well built at 6-foot-3 and 305 pounds. He is strong and quick. Additionally, he has an aggressive mentality that stems from his days playing defense.
Where he needs the most improvement is with the mental aspects of the game.
“I definitely need to improve on learning the offense,” he said. “It’s a completely different offense. I guess I need to improve on my run blocking, my technique, and just overall level of playing and being physical -- finishing after the ball, running down the field after the ball has been thrown, learning how to think quicker, etc.”
It’s a lengthy to-do list for the rookie blocker, whose head is still spinning after minicamps and OTAs. Luckily, Carolina’s veteran are there to make the transition a little bit easier.
“I was fortunate to come into a very good group of veterans,” he said. “Everyone has been very helpful to all the rookies. Jordan Gross, Travelle Wharton, Mackenzy Bernadeau, they’ve all really helped me. If I have questions, they answer. If they see me mess up, they’ll pull me to the side and let me know what I did wrong and how to correct it.”
Hasatake has a lot of know-how to accumulate before he lines up alongside those aforementioned veterans. However, he is not intimidated by the challenge. In the last four years he’s gone from a football virgin to a dominant player at a D-I school. If he continues that rapid ascension, there’s no capping his potential.
In the meanwhile, he’s loving life as a professional football player.
“It’s a huge difference from college to the next level,” he said. “Everything is much faster, more precise, and it’s actually been pretty great. It’s a good experience.”
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