Tyson Alualu’s humble beginnings made it easy for him to accept the insult that he was a reach-pick draft choice. He made it sound as though he welcomes the rebuke.
“It was a shock to my people, my family and me. I was hoping to go late-first. I was projected as a solid second-round pick,” Alualu told reporters on Friday, a few hours after arriving in Jacksonville and ending a journey that begin at four p.m. on Thursday in Hawaii.
The Jaguars’ first-round draft choice is a warm and friendly man who spoke to reporters openly about his energy for the game and his love of family and faith.
“Moving from shelter to shelter, not having the finer things in life; I want to have this opportunity to give back to my family,” Alualu said.
Jaguars guard Vince Manuwai talked last week of knowing Alualu from their days growing up in the Honolulu projects. Alualu lived in three shelters.
“I know him from growing up as a kid. We’re from the same neighborhood,” Manuwai said.
The neighborhood is known as KPT, which is short for Kuhio Park Terrace. Manuwai did not describe it in pleasant terms.
“I know his parents were very guarded. His dad runs security there. I know they fussed on him. They did a great job and he’s at the next level,” Manuwai said of Alualu.
Soon, Alualu will sign a rich contract that’ll guarantee no one in his family will ever again live in a shelter. Good times have arrived for someone who has been described by Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith and Head Coach Jack Del Rio as a good guy.
“I’m here to work hard,” Alualu said. “Most teams talk about my passion for the game. I don’t tell them. They say they see it.”
Smith very clearly saw it and fell in love with it. Alualu’s passion caused him to soar up the Jaguars’ draft board, though he was unaware of it. He considered Dallas, New England and Denver to be the three teams most interested in drafting him.
When he was selected with the 10th overall pick, draft guru Mel Kiper immediately criticized the pick for being a reach. Smith said it wasn’t a reach according to the Jaguars’ draft rankings, as Alualu was the best available player on the Jaguars’ board.
All of that and the flap about the Jaguars not using the pick on favorite-son Tim Tebow is in the past. What’s ahead, beginning with this weekend’s mini-camp, is about what Alualu does on the field.
With the Jaguars, he’ll be a featured player, which he wasn’t at Cal. Gone are his days as a read-and-react defensive end in a 3-4 scheme. With the Jaguars, Alualu will be used as a penetrating, disruptive, three-technique defensive tackle.
“I’m definitely excited about that, not reading so much but just exploding and getting after it; penetrating and getting into to the backfield. I can’t wait to get started,” he said.
Gone, also, are his days of wearing number 44, the family number, as he called it. He’ll wear number 93 with the Jaguars.
“My wife and our two kids are really excited about making Jacksonville our new home,” he said.
“You watch him since high school and, all of a sudden, you’re playing with him,” Manuwai added.
Alualu’s was a very long journey.