Snapshot: Chris Kemoeatu

Snapshot: Chris Kemoeatu

Chris Kemoeatu knows he should have been selected before the sixth round of the NFL draft.

Talent-wise, he was probably as good as any guard in this year's draft. But talent alone isn't the only thing teams look at when selecting players in the draft.

NFL teams now have legions of people to comb the Internet looking into a player's background, searching for any skeletons in the closet.

As for Kemoeatu, they didn't have far to search. His skeletons were right there out in the open.

Kemoeatu, an All-American as a senior at Utah, was suspended by then-Utes coach Urban Meyer for kicking opponents in back-to-back games during his junior season. The second kick came on UNLV nose tackle Howie Fuimaono as he lay helmetless on the ground.

UNLV coach John Robinson said the incident, which first Fuimaono get his helmet ripped off and then ended with Kemoeatu's straight-on kick into the face, "the worst I've seen in my time as an athlete. It was a serious, serious incident. I thought Howie was injured badly."

Fuimaono had blurred vision and headaches for several hours after one of Kemoeatu's cleats connected with his left eye socket but did not suffer any major injuries from the kick.

"That mean streak that I've got, I think I've overcome that problem that I had," said Kemoeatu. "I think I've really matured from that incident and I've learned a lot from the incident."

Utah sent Kemoeatu to anger management courses before his senior season and those seemed to take care of his loss of control problems. But many opponents still considered the 6-4, 339-pound road grader one of the dirtiest players in college football.

"He is a dirty player, but not when I went against him," said Nua, a seventh-round draft pick by the Steelers who played against Kemoeatu while at BYU. "He is a tough battle, I will say that. He is a tough guy. That is a good pick, too. He came to the right place."

Steelers' offensive line coach Russ Grimm thinks so. A throwback kind of coach, Grimm looks forward to the challenge of reigning Kemoeatu in and molding him into a better player.

"I think there are a lot of people that would love this guy," said Grimm. "When you go in there every round it is like everyone goes in and looks to see if one of my guys is rated high enough or are we going to look at this position. Sometimes you come out of there and they go in a different direction. We were happy. He was the highest rated guy left on our board."

Yet the other 31 teams in the league continued to pass on him through six rounds.

"A lot of guards went out and got picked up," Kemoeatu said. "I didn't expect to go this late, but sometimes that's just the way the cookie crumbles, huh? Other than that, I'm more than happy. I just want to thank the Pittsburgh Steelers for giving me the opportunity to perform for them."

Even if that means he just might have to line up against his brother, Ma'ake Kemoeatu, a defensive tackle for the Ravens.

"Off the field, we're brothers, but on the field it's a war zone out there," Kemoeau said. "So there's going to be some head-banging."

Nobody would expect anything less.

The Steelers have two former first-round picks starting at guard in All-Pro Alan Faneca and Kendall Simmons. But Simmons is returning from back-to-back injury-plagued seasons. In fact, he didn't play a down in 2004 after tearing his Anterior Cruciate Ligament at training camp in early August.

Keydrick Vincent started all 16 regular season games and both playoff games at Simmons' right guard position. But Vincent left as a free agent, signing with Baltimore, possibly leaving a spot open for a youngster of Kemoeatu to win a spot.

"All the jobs are open going in," said Grimm, who also returns untested backup guard Jim Jones. "You know ahead of time some of the guys that have played there for a while are going to be tough to move out. The other jobs are what training camp is all about. You never know. You go in last year and Kendall gets a freak injury on a pass rush play and the next thing you know Keydrick Vincent has to play the entire season. You hope to stay away from that, but those players when you get them here you tell them from day one that they are one play away from having to step in and be with the starting group."

If the Steelers are right about Kemoeatu and he has his past problems behind him, he won't have any problems with that.

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