Not many saw Bradlee Anae’s draft slide coming. Entering February’s NFL Scouting Combine in February, the edge rusher from Kahuku was in contention for a green room invitation for the NFL Draft in Las Vegas.
Of course, a lot has changed since then. The draft was held last weekend in an exclusively virtual capacity due to coronavirus. Although Anae wasn’t one of the 58 prospects invited to the virtual draft, he was still projected as a Day 2 selection.
But as Day 2 came and went, Anae was still on the board. He wasn’t selected until the 34th and final pick of the fifth round on Day 3, officially becoming a member of the Dallas Cowboys with the 179th overall selection.
“It was pretty unexpected to fall down where I fell,” he told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello. “Nobody would’ve guessed that but it’s just a blessing. I was thinking about it the other day that it was just a blessing to be a part of the NFL and to even have a shot like this. For me, it’s underdog mentality forever and just can’t wait to get going.”
Anae put himself on the pro radar after a stellar career at the University of Utah. The defensive end is the school’s all-time sacks leader at 30. He’s also a two-time All-Pac 12 first team selection and was also a consensus All-American during his senior season in 2019.
Anae wasn’t a top prospect when he entered Utah but managed to carve out a legendary career for himself. He’ll enter the NFL with the same mentality.
“It’s been like that pretty much my whole career. It’s the same old story,” he said. “But in high school, I didn’t really play much. I only started my senior year but I have my goals and I know my work ethic so I just know I can do it.”
Nobody can know for sure what caused Anae’s slide on draft day, although he believes a 4.93 40-yard dash time at the combine played a factor.
Perhaps the league’s most iconic franchise, the Cowboys made the playoffs just three times in the last decade. The team is entering a new era under first-year head coach Mike McCarthy and have received rave reviews for their draft haul, with Anae one of the centerpieces of it. After getting the call from owner Jerry Jones, Anae is itching to get going.
“Getting the phone call and talking to Jerry Jones, it was crazy,” he said. “All I could say was ‘Yes sir, thank you sir.’ I was pretty speechless but just an exciting time and it feels surreal to be a part of this organization.”
Anae wasn’t the only Kahuku kid drafted on Saturday. Notre Dame safety Alohi Gilman was also selected by the Los Angeles Chargers in the sixth round. After the draft, a long line of cars in the North Shore celebrated their two newest NFL players. Anae hopes Saturday wasn’t the last time a celebration like that will be held.
“It just means a lot to me to where I can be on this stage in order to get this message across and to use this platform for those reasons,” he said. “It’s just so special and just blessed and grateful to be able to do so.”