OLIVA LIVING NFL DREAM

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By KEVIN SAULS

Michael Oliva set all kinds of receiving records at Summerville High School and the University of California at Davis, and now he has made a bit of Tuolumne County history.

Oliva is the first former Summerville player to sign with an NFL team, having inked a three-year, free-agent contract with the New York Jets after participating in a three-day mini-camp during the weekend at the Jets' training site on the campus of Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

He went unselected in the NFL draft despite getting phone calls from what he said were "six or seven teams," then fielded free-agent offers from the Jets, the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles.

"I originally decided on New England, but the deal fell through," Oliva said from Davis, where he is training in preparation for a return to New York in mid-May. "It turns out the Jets are a better fit for me anyway."

The offensive coordinator of the Jets is Paul Hackett, whose son, Nathaniel, is a friend of Oliva's. In fact, the two worked together at UC Davis, the younger Hackett as the Aggies' long snapper and Oliva as their holder on placekicks.

The elder Hackett is a UC Davis product who is a longtime NFL assistant and formerly a collegiate head coach at Pittsburgh and USC. Also in New York is Chris Smith, a tackle from Davis.

At the end of the mini-camp, Oliva signed along with fellow free agents Lance Gibson, a defensive end from Central Washington, and Gabe Reid,

a tight end from BYU.

During the mini-camp, Oliva worked with incumbent Jets quarterback Chad Pennington and established NFL receivers Santana Moss, Curtis Conway (a San Diego Charger last year) and Wayne Chrebet. He also met former starting quarterback Vinny Testaverde.

"It was tough as a first-year player because you don't get many (repetitions) and you're trying to impress the coaches on just a few plays," Oliva said. "But it was definitely exciting and everybody was real nice and real supportive."

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The Union Democrat
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