Panthers' Pilares quick on his feet

Staff WriterAugust 16, 2011 

— A Carolina Panther has never claimed to be the fastest man in his state. Even former receiver Taye Biddle, who said he ran a 4.1 40-yard dash, didn't claim to be the fastest man in his native Alabama.

To Biddle's discredit, a true 4.1 40 would make him the fastest man anywhere.

Kealoha Pilares, whom the Panthers selected in the fifth round of April's draft, ran a 4.41 for NFL scouts. But he has been timed at less than 4.4.

If you saw his 35-yard touchdown Saturday at Bank of America Stadium, you aren't surprised.

Pilares, who grew up in Honolulu and played at Hawaii, took a short pass from Derek Anderson, collected a great block from Charly Martin and looked as if he might need a runaway truck ramp to stop.

To compare him to Steve Smith is foolish. Smith has a resume; Pilares has an exhibition game. But Pilares' work at camp at least suggests the same quick-twitch acceleration. After making the catch Saturday he took off as though he had been slung.

Are you the fastest man in Hawaii?

"They have a track meet," Pilares, a pleasant guy, says Monday. "I told my mom I want to do that one day. Hopefully I can call myself the fastest man in Hawaii.

At 5-foot-10 and 201 pounds, Pilares is built solidly, like Smith. Last season he was seventh among college receivers in reception yards (1,306) and third in touchdowns (15).

A slot receiver, his specialty is catching a short pass and parlaying it into a long gain. Think about how New England likes to throw underneath to its quick receivers. That's what Carolina would like to do with Pilares.

Pilares figured out he was fast when nobody could catch him in tag. At Damien Memorial High, he lettered in football, track, basketball and paddling. Pilares is believed to be the only one of the 90 players on the Carolina roster who received a letter for paddling a canoe.

He surfed, too.

On Monday, quarterback Jimmy Clausen wears a blue T-shirt with a Hawaii insignia that implies big waves. When asked about the sport, Clausen says he grew up in surf country in California, has spent time in Hawaii and has surfed. But he says the sport was tough for him because of his size.

Can you see Clausen on a surfboard?

"Yeah, I see him surfing," says Pilares. "He's got that Kelly Slater look. He could pull it off if he worked at it."

Pilares' work is finished. He gave up the board when Hawaii gave him a scholarship. Surfing injuries, he says, are worse than football injuries.

"Surfing injuries can be life-threatening," Pilares says.

He's at his best on solid ground. As a high school player he was the state's offensive player of the year and his school's class president.

Pilares went on to play running back two seasons for Hawaii before switching to receiver for the final two.

Of course he watched the replay of his fourth-quarter touchdown against the New York Giants. So have all the Hawaii fans who have contacted him.

"I guess big things happen when you don't think, and that's exactly what happened on that play," Pilares says. "I just saw Charly hook that guy and get a block on him and saw the end zone. Whenever that happens, you just run as fast as you can."

Pilares says he didn't think he looked fast.

"I'm a long-strider," he says. "I still don't even know how to run. I can get a lot faster."

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