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Archive for Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Chiefs’ top pick visits Arrowhead

April 27, 2004

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— Out here in the land of wheat fields and barbecue joints where Polynesian names and towering mountaintops are roughly equally rare, fans are having a devil of a time trying to pronounce Junior Siavii's last name.

Kansas City coach Dick Vermeil and team president Carl Peterson each had different ways of saying it after they made the hulking defensive tackle from Oregon their first pick of the NFL Draft.

Radio sportstalk hosts spent all day Monday calling the native of American Samoa everything from say-la-vee to suh-vee-eee-eee.

So let the man himself -- all 348 pounds of him -- set the record straight:

See-uh-VEE.

Now anybody who says it wrong just isn't paying attention. But the word to describe the chaotic two days he spent after becoming the Chiefs' No. 1 pick is simple.

"Horrible," Siavii told reporters Monday.

"I don't know. I'm excited, but I don't know how to express it. But I'm pretty happy, though. There was a lot of calls after the draft. I stopped answering them. There were people I didn't even know calling.

"I'm happy I'm here. I like the stadium. It's just like Oregon. I heard it is the loudest stadium in the league right now. But I'm worried about the minicamp."

The Chiefs admit the powerful Samoan, who spent three years in two different junior colleges before becoming academically eligible for Oregon, will be a project.

He was not even a full-time starter his first year at Oregon. And he's already 25.

But his raw power and tremendous size also could make him the run-plugger so desperately needed by a defense that ranked 29th last year despite the team's 13-3 regular-season record.

"Is he a project? Absolutely," Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said. "But I think there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

"He's still learning on the run about a lot of things, the maturity factor being one of them, and making the right decisions. But I do think at heart he's a very good young man who wants to be successful and wants to please his coaches."

Without a doubt, Siavii is one of the most physically imposing men the Chiefs ever have suited up. Seemingly injury-proof, team doctors gave him a perfect grade of "4" on their predraft physical.

"I haven't been hurt yet," he said with a shy grin.

Minutes after being drafted Saturday, Siavii bragged that opposing offenses had better stay out of his gap. Monday, he toned it down.

"I want to play. But I'm not going to say anything," he said. "I'll show you guys something. That I can play here. That I belong here."

Will he be a starter?

"We'll see," he said. "I should be."

Coaches all say he has a nasty streak as a player.

"In a way," he said. "I step on the field, it's all game. It's all about the game. It's all about the win to me. I'm looking forward to the competition.

"I hope to improve every day in practice and help our team, help our defense in any way I possibly can."

As for the nickname Junior, it's something his mom suggested after he came home from school one day and said he couldn't spell his real first name of "Saousoalaii."

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