July 26, 2014

Elyria
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NFL Draft 2008: Elyria native Haruki Nakamura gets his chance when Ravens draft him in sixth round

BEREA — Haruki Nakamura had a jam-packed weekend.
He helped with a University of Cincinnati alumni golf outing Friday, attended a breakfast Saturday for past Bearcats football captains and entertained his visiting family.
It wasn’t enough to take his mind off the NFL Draft.
After two days and more than 200 picks, Nakamura went to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. He was taken in the sixth round with overall pick No. 206.
“When I got the phone call, it was the biggest relief,” said Nakamura, an Elyria resident who graduated from St. Edward High School. “There’s a lot of weight off my chest. Now I can relax and get ready to play more football.”
When the commotion had subsided and he had finished dinner with mom Karen and sister Kimiko, Nakamura headed to a student mass late Sunday night. He had plenty to reflect upon and be grateful for.
“The only thing I ever asked for was an opportunity to play in the NFL,” he said by cell phone from Cincinnati. “The Baltimore Ravens gave me that.”
To people outside the Nakamura family, Haruki is an undersized free safety at a shade under 5-foot-10. To Nakamura, he belongs where he’s headed.
“My freshman year in college I set my goals real high,” he said. “You gotta shoot for the stars. That’s the way my family is. My goal was to play in the NFL.
“I’m looking forward to fulfilling that dream. I think I’m going to make the team.”
As a sixth-round pick, Nakamura isn’t a lock to make the Ravens, who drafted Notre Dame safety Tom Zbikowski in the third round. Nakamura will need to make an impact on special teams and prove that he can provide depth at safety.
“When I was on my visit, that’s what we talked about,” he said. “Most rookies, that’s where they start.”
Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta was excited about the addition of Nakamura and Zbikowski.
“They are two outstanding, smart, productive, tough safeties with a knack for making big plays,” he said.
Nakamura was a three-year starter at Cincinnati and saw a lot of action on special teams. He had 95 tackles, eight pass breakups, four interceptions, three forced fumbles and 1½ sacks as a senior. He was a unanimous first-team All-Big East selection and the Bearcats’ co-MVP.
One draft guide described him as a “willing hitter, tough, aggressive.” It also called him “undersized.”
“The biggest thing was my size,” he said of concerns voiced by NFL scouts. “My emphasis was to gain weight and get stronger.”
He said he’s up 10 pounds to 203, feels great and still ran a 4.55-second 40-yard dash at his pro day. He worked out individually for the Browns, and general manager Phil Savage came away impressed.
“He’s feisty and smart,” Savage said.
And ready to embark on an NFL career.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.