The Rock

Tyson Alualu Has Quietly Asserted Himself as Cal's Standout Defensive Lineman

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Defensive end Tyson Alualu

Alualu touches upon a variety of topics including his transition to the 3-4 stud end position as well as his family life.

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A religious 21-year-old in a post-modern, I-me-mine era, defensive end Tyson Alualu pauses on the bleachers of Memorial Stadium, unable to explain why it all makes sense.

When he swims past a left tackle, he says it's simply an act of worship. The difficult task of presupposing the presence of a higher being in day-to-day routines, which in his case involves football, doesn't seem as daunting for the junior as it is for nine-to-five America.

"I see it as me giving worship to God out here, using my gift that God gave me," says Alualu. "That's my gift back to God, using what he gave me, witnessing as a football player."

Believer or not, it made sense Wednesday as he demonstrated against All-America center Alex Mack during individual pass-rush drills. In a rare occurrence, Mack was left punching air as Alualu blew by the nation's surest thing in pass protection.

Asked about it later, he can't explain that either.

"I got lucky," he says. "I mean, he's human. You get that chance and, I don't know, execute I guess."

And executing is what Alualu's done all season, or all career to be exact. That he's considered Cal's most prolific lineman speaks louder volumes considering the amount of change he's weathered, both on and off the field.

Recruited as a defensive end, Alualu arrived on the Berkeley campus in the spring of 2006, weighing a bloated 315 pounds; he was aptly moved inside as a freshman. But he shed the excess weight down to 265 by the start the 2007 season, when he starred opposite Rulon Davis at end in the old 4-3.

Now he fills the 3-4 stud end slot for the Bears -- a position that is somewhat a combination of his previous two. Alongside Davis, Alualu plays a game of musical linemen prior to each snap, ever settling on the strong side to where most teams in the Pac-10 run the ball.

For all the attention the linebackers get, Alualu quietly clocks in, lines up his punch card and frequents the backfield down after down.

"To define Tyson, I'd say he's the rock of our defense," says D-line coach Tosh Lupoi. "He's who we depend on to be the point of attack on our defense. We want to put him where offenses want to gear most of their offense towards.

"If an offense has a big, strong-side running game, we want Tyson there. If the offense has a big-time pass package, we want Tyson in somewhere incorporated with our stunts and upfield pressure to get after the passer."

Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory nearly agrees verbatim: "We count him the rock of our defensive line."

And he's got the stats to match-in 2008, Alualu leads the team with three quarterback hurries while posting 14 tackles (two for loss) and a sack.

Mack, for one, has taken notice.

"Tyson has taken big strides," says Mack. "He's really powerful off the edge. He comes inside sometimes and gives me a really hard time on the pass rush. He's a good, good defensive end."

For someone who's been through a slew of off-field encounters, Alualu seems unscathed by distractions.

In 2005, he delayed enrolling at Cal to return home to Honolulu for the birth of his son -- a 50-pound two-year-old who has the look of an offensive lineman, according to Alualu -- and to marry the child's mother. Dripping with homesickness, he was absent from Memorial Stadium until 2006. A month and a half ago, a second child, this time a daughter, fell into his lap.

Today, Alualu supports a family of four in Family Student Housing. His kids and wife have been in Hawaii for two weeks, but while his family is temporarily away from his provision, the same can't be said for his teammates.

Alongside Davis and defensive tackles Derrick Hill and Mika Kane, the 6-foot-4, 290-pound lineman has been a consistent leader for the Bears in the young season, although he's a little quieter than everyone else on that list.

"He doesn't say anything," says Gregory. "He's a real quiet guy, but I think what he does do, he certainly leads by example. That guy practices hard every single day."

And his colleagues don't seem to mind the silence.

"When things need to be done, he does them," says redshirt freshman Ernest Owusu. "Sometimes, you'll see people just screaming all the time. Tyson doesn't do that. He has constant energy ... We all respect him."

Says Davis, the veteran and more vocal defensive end: "Great attitude. He's an inspirational individual."

Perhaps the two gel through elderly adages like the one below.

"I mean, it's hard," Alualu says about how he balances family time with daily practices. "But I love the fact that I go through all this, then I get to go home to my family, to my wife and two kids."


Contact Andrew Kim at [email protected]

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