When the Jacksonville Jaguars chose California defensive lineman Tyson Alualu with the 2010 NFL Draft's 10th overall pick, fans' surprise was palpable—not only in every living room, but even at the team's draft party at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium.
General manager Gene Smith must have been saying "Yes!" after snagging his targeted player, but most Jaguars fans had a different word on their lips: "Who?"
A fair question. Few draft analysts considered Alualu even a late first-rounder; most gave him a solid second round grade. Fans had months to familiarize themselves with several nationally-acclaimed prospects rumored to fit Jacksonville's draft spot, but Alualu, a soft-spoken West Coast workhorse, slipped under that radar.
Despite having shown well at the Jaguars' offseason team activities and with the Jacksonville media, Alualu is still a relative unknown among the team's fan base past his highlight reels on YouTube.
To that end, Bleacher Report's Jack Harver caught up with Alualu for a few minutes during this busy offseason to find out more about the man behind the facemask.
Jack Harver: When you were drafted, maybe because of the respect Jaguars fans have for [veteran guard] Vince Manuwai and his heritage, there was a lot of interest in your background. I've read that you played for Saint Louis, a big-time team in Hawai'i high school football. Do you have a favorite memory from playing there?
Tyson Alualu: Shoot, my whole time there was full of good memories. It was always a dream of mine, going to that school, because my uncle went to that school and I always looked up to him when I was younger. Being a part of that was big for me.
JH: From there, you made it to the next level to play college ball at California. Was moving away a challenging experience?
TA: At the time, that was one of the hardest decisions I had to make. [In Hawai'i,] I always had family to rely on. Leaving for college was a hard step, even after I chose Cal—just being so far away from my family. Coming from Hawai'i and then moving to Berkeley, it's a whole different life out there.
JH: Yeah, Berkeley's...different, to say the least. Clearly, though, you've done pretty well for yourself since. What was it that allowed you to handle that culture shock?
TA: Well, first things first: the first thing that got me through was my faith in God.
It definitely helped me to overcome a lot of things in my life—everything that God has placed in my life, as far as people I needed to meet and the family I have now—and it played a big, big part in the things I accomplished at Cal [and even] allowing me to have a scholarship to go to Cal.
All the glory goes to God—everything He's done for me thus far, everything He's doing for me now, and everything He'll do for me in the future.
Looking back, it was a great decision for me and a great place for me. It definitely helped me out a lot in my football career, it brought me here [to Jacksonville], and I couldn't have landed in a more perfect situation than being here with the Jaguars. I just count it all as blessings.
JH: You've come across as a man of strong faith in your interviews. Once, in particular, in your post-draft press conference, you said, "When I play football, that's me giving worship to God." To me, that's a fascinating concept. Could you explain a little more about what that means to you?
TA: Growing up, I played with the mindset that I play representing God—that I have to shine Christ through the way I play. It just got deeper when I got to college, knowing more about God through Bible study and getting through His Word.
In everything you do, God blesses you with the talent. What you make of that talent is your gift back to God. So, God blessed me with these gifts and all I want to do is use them to glorify His name.
Everything that I do on the field, that's my worship to God. I believe that He deserves nothing but the best, so I'm giving him worship.
JH: That seems like a good way to put it. On the surface, it might seem like a conflict between the inner peace of faith and the outer violence of football. When you look at it as doing work, though, it makes sense.
JH: As far as what you'll do on the field, what should Jaguars fans expect? Is there a current NFL player who plays like you will?
TA: It's a little hard to compare myself to any NFL player, just because I haven't even taken a snap yet at this level. It's a whole new level. But what they can expect is nothing but my best.
I think I've got a lot more to work on. There's great coaching and great players here to push me to be at my best. I definitely want to get out there and show them what I can do.
JH: Really, that's all we can ask of you. Thanks for your time, and I think I speak for the Jaguars' fans in saying that we're looking forward to watching you on Sundays this fall.
TA: No problem.