Early attention seems to be focused primarily on the Cleveland Browns' most recent incarnation of quarterbacking, doubled by a perceived lack of talent at the skill positions. While looking one way, arguably the biggest story in camp is hidden in the trenches with the quick development of a third round rookie seeing significant playing time along the starting offensive line.
Shawn Lauvao has been up to the task and may help solidify an ever improving unit which already boasts the best left tackle in the game, a very good veteran left guard, and one of the game's most promising pivots. Being selected ninety-second overall now heeds no consequence, and the Arizona State product is taking everything in stride.
Playing guard initially in college, then bumping outside to left tackle, what is the biggest difference as you see it between the two positions?
"I definitely have a lot more respect for tackles now and understand why they make the big money. Thing is, brushing off what I learned at guard being I just learned how to play tackle last season. At the same time learning center and progressing there as well. From a technical standpoint, it's a lot to learn but it's coming along. It's a process. I'm trying my best and just getting better everyday."
Have we never snapped the ball or played center previously?
"Not in high school and only a little in college. Sparingly. We had good centers at my school. It was one of those things were coach going one on one working a little bit on snaps but no game action."
What has been the biggest adjustment for an offensive lineman as he transitions from the collegiate to the professional ranks? Technique?
"Definitely. From a technical standpoint, everyone is sound [at the pro level]. Guys always make plays. That's why it is the NFL. Everybody is on point. So from there, I want to make sure I am on point. I'll probably critique myself the hardest, besides coach. From there I'm just trying to get better and better, more and more every day."
As a rookie, there is undoubtedly a lot coming at you; what areas of your game have you been working on the most initially?
"Hand placement. Being a lot more violent with my hands. From there, just play with better leverage. Biggest thing for me is to keep it pretty basic. Playing with better leverage and better hands is definitely the biggest thing. A lineman can always get better at that, and it's something I try to focus on every day."
Has the coaching staff discussed the possibility of playing some right tackle as well?
"No, not so much. Biggest thing is that coach wants me to come in and compete at guard and center, if need be."
Coming out of Arizona State, and learning in a pro system under the guidance of form NFL head coach, Dennis Erickson, how has that helped this transition?
"Coach Erickson is a tremendous coach. His knowledge of the game is a massive amount. From there, it has helped me understand the process. What's expected of you. And then just coming in and competing. They already had that expectation. You just have to come out and produce."
Is it nice to see a familiar face in former and now current teammate Paul Fanaika?
"Yeah, it's pretty nice. Paul is my dude. We're always hanging out. It's a blessing. I'm just grateful."
What type of player is Mr. Fanaika?
"Paul is a great player, a real technician guy. But at the same time, he can be that hard hitting smashmouth football player."
What are we thinking and see when we line up with the first team and see players like Joe Thomas, a three time Pro Bowler, Eric Steinbach, the consummate veteran, and Alex Mack, a former first rounder; lined up next to you?
"Leadership. They've been there and know what it is like in terms of mastering your craft. I'm watching Steiny. I'm watching Joe. I'm watching ‘Chop' [Womack]. I'm watching of these dudes. You got St. Clair. Mack is coming into his own as well. It's really good for me. From there you just have to be a sponge and soak it up from there. Come in and compete and get better every day."
Shawn, you exude this quiet confidence and maturity. Does your personality and level of maturity help take to this process more quickly?
"Thing is…I've been on my own since I was 16. For me, it's just one of those things. I've always kind of been on my own. My parents are hard working people. At a young age, I had to leave them. Fortunately, because I have been drafted, I've been able to link up with them again which is really good. So in terms of maturing faster, I would say ‘yeah' because you have to grow up fast when you are living by yourself."
To verify, you left your parents at the age of sixteen?
"Yeah. As soon as you go to college, you are on your own. My parents live in Hawaii. My dad got real sick. From there, they went back to Samoa. So I've sparingly seen my parents."
How did we enter college at the age of sixteen?
"I graduated kind of early. Hawaii is very different. They will start kids at the age of four or five. By the time I got to college I was 17. I was young in high school."
"I think we're all from different areas. Kaluka is from Maui. David is from all over the place. It is cool though to see other Polynesians out there. It's a cool process and does help the transition."
Do we feel comfortable as we fit in with the first unit?
"I'm just trying to do what coach says. From there, just trying to be a technician and master my craft. What every coach says. Coach [War]Hop is a great coach. He is always trying to get the best out of me, and I don't want to disappoint. I'm coming in working whatever he wants me to work."
Were we surprised when the staff asked you to play predominantly on the right side, after spending most of your college career on the left side of the line?
"A little bit, but I'm all for it. Whatever I can do to help the team. I did play right tackle my junior year. Played a little right guard my sophomore year. Other than that, the majority has been on the left side. It was a 75/25 kind of thing."
Does it affect your stance at all?
"Not so much because I am right handed. I just trained myself to play on the left side previously."
Coach Mangini stresses the importance of intelligence in his football players. Already having a Master's degree, how does that type of education translate on the field?
"Education helps. Coach Mangini always preaches, ‘Knowledge is power'. From there all the different schemes and coverage the defenses are giving you and the ability to read and react to them can help you play that much faster."
What type of feeling did you have of Coach and the Browns in general among the pre-draft process?
"It was a toss up. I thought I was going to end up on the West Coast. Now I'm over here in the Midwest. It's such an inexact science. You never really know what to expect."
Homesickness won't be an issue then?
"I'm taking a liking to Ohio, man. The community is good people. It's real laid back. They have that quiet demeanor where they are just hard working. It's kind of like the islands. The only difference is the people there are a lot more lax.