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Dolphins select Utes’ Soliai

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Utah's Paul Soliai, who was picked by Miami in the second round of the NFL draft, takes down UCLA's Kahlil Bell during a game last year.

Utah’s Paul Soliai, who was picked by Miami in the second round of the NFL draft, takes down UCLA’s Kahlil Bell during a game last year.

Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News

Paul Soliai didn't have to wait too long for his phone to ring when the NFL Draft resumed Sunday morning.

The Miami Dolphins made the former Utah defensive lineman the ninth pick of the fourth round (108th overall).

"I'm going to give them everything I've got," said Soliai, who added that playing in the NFL has been his childhood dream. "I'm really glad I made it this far. I'm happy that I got picked today. I've just got to finish up and show what I've got."

Soliai is especially pleased to join Hawaii center Samson Satele, a second-round selection by the Dolphins, in Miami. The friends trained together and have the same agent (Leo Goeas).

"I feel comfortable," said Soliai. "I'm happy I'm here."

The 6-foot-4, 344-pounder from American Samoa is the first Ute taken by the Dolphins since 1990, when quarterback Scott Mitchell was drafted in the fourth round. Soliai, who came to Utah as an offensive lineman after earning all-America honors at Coffeyville Community College, made a successful switch to defense.

"They're going to get a kid that I think has developed himself," said Utah defensive coordinator Gary Andersen. "He understands how to work."

Soliai, he continued, has a much better understanding of how to prepare for an opponent and work in the weight room since coming out of junior college.

Soliai appeared in 24 games for the Utes, making 40 tackles, including five behind the line of scrimmage, and three sacks. He earned second-team all-Mountain West Conference honors in 2006 and joined Eric Weddle as Utah's only invitees to the NFL Scouting Combine.

Weddle, who was taken by San Diego in the second round, and Soliai were the only Utes drafted this year.

"I believe Paul's best days are ahead of him," said Andersen. "It was a great day for him to be able to get drafted in the fourth round. That's a major accomplishment."

Although Soliai has limited experience, Andersen noted that the nose guard has a good year of defensive line play under his belt. He wasn't a full-time starter until his senior season.

"Personally I would love to have him for another year," said Andersen. "But obviously that didn't work for us."

The Dolphins told Andersen what they hope to get out of Soliai.

"They want him to be able to be a big, strong inside force that can take care of 1 1/2 or 2 gaps on every snap," said Andersen. "I think Paul will be prepared to do that, but I think they also understand that they've drafted a young man whose best days are truly ahead of him. That's kind of the long and short of it."

E-mail: dirk@desnews.com