August 27, 2014

Medina
Intermittent clouds
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Strongman Lauvao flew under radar

Shawn Lauvao has never pulled a van, lifted a giant tire, flipped a log or done any of the other bizarre and entertaining events that make up the world’s strongest man competitions.

But the newest Browns offensive lineman, and 2005 Hawaii Strongest Teen, is open to the possibility.

“Maybe in the future,” he said over the weekend at Browns rookie minicamp. “It’s definitely a big hobby of mine. I enjoy lifting weights. I’m kind of strong.”

Lauvao was drafted in the third round at No. 92 overall. The pick came just seven selections after that of Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, so Lauvao has been largely an afterthought.

The afterthought has a much better chance of contributing this season.

Lauvao, who finished his Arizona State career with 33 straight starts, played left tackle as a senior, but at 6-foot-2, 315 pounds projects as an NFL guard. Veteran Floyd Womack is penciled in as the starter at right guard, but Lauvao could immediately push him for playing time.

“The biggest thing is I want to make the team and help the team any way possible,” said Lauvao, who grew up in Hawaii and whose parents live in Western Samoa. “Whatever the coaches see fit, I’m more than willing to do.”

If Lauvao gets on the field, his strength will be a significant factor. He can bench press 500 pounds, squat 700 and clean 350. He benched 225 pounds an impressive 33 times at the combine, and was disappointed he didn’t do more.

“Shawn came in strong, had a tremendous work ethic the entire time he was here and got much stronger,” Arizona State strength coach Ben Hilgart said. “What’s more impressive is that pound for pound he’s very good. He handles his body weight very well.”

Hilgart said Lauvao’s “relative strength” was obvious when the linemen did chin-ups. While plenty of 300-pounders struggle to do one, Lauvao ups the ante and doesn’t disappoint.

“We’ve got chains we use that weigh about 20 pounds apiece,” Hilgart said. “He’ll drape three of those around his back, kinda Mad Max style. It turns him into 375 pounds, 60 of which is dead weight, and he’ll bang out 10 chin-ups.”

If strength were enough to make a good NFL player, the behemoths from the strong man competition —Magnus and Andrus — would be raking in millions on Sundays. But that strength must be converted to operational power.

“There’s a lot of guys who can lift a lot of wait, who are strong, but not very athletic,” Lauvao said. “The biggest thing is playing with better leverage, better knee bend, dropping your hips more, having better reaction, as opposed to trying to run and smash people. You’ve got to do it in a more controlled manner.”

Hilgart’s seen Lauvao do that on the field, and he also saw it at the combine when Lauvao posted the best time of any offensive lineman in the short shuttle drill.

“It’s a great indicator of how a guy can change direction, burst off the line and drop his hips,” Hilgart said. “It shows versatility. He’s an athletic and strong kid. He’s not just a big, slow, strong kid.

“I’ve seen it in games and practices. When he gets hold of you, it’s lights out. I’ve seen him lock ’em out with one arm and just stone that person. That’s an application of where strength is translating to the football field.”

Lauvao earned his bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies, specializing in education and sociology. He said he’s six to nine units from getting his master’s and would like to use the degrees to go into coaching.

The Browns targeted character and toughness in the draft, and Lauvao appears to bring both. As a senior, he was voted captain by his teammates and won the Hard Hat award, given to the MVP of strength training.

“It’s not about the strongest person, it’s who’s working the hardest, doing the little things right and motivating people in the weight room,” Hilgart said. “He just happened to also be our strongest guy.

“He’s a great football player, a hard worker and a great person. All that stuff’s legit. All that stuff’s authentic.”

The coaching staff worked Lauvao at both guard spots during rookie minicamp, and he said they want him to master guard before expanding his repertoire.

“He’s tough, he’s physical,” coach Eric Mangini said. “One of the things that you like about watching offensive linemen or something that always jumps off the screen to me is guys that clean the pocket. Which means when they are not blocking somebody, they go and help somebody else out and it’s usually one of those hits that defensive linemen remember.

“There were quite a few of those with him. You appreciate that.”

Lauvao had a simple explanation for what Mangini spotted on film.

“I like to knock heads,” he said. “If I don’t have anything to do, I’m going to go see if I can smash somebody else.”

Contact Scott Petrak at (440) 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.