Giving it his all one last time

Cougar defensive tackle Russell Tialavea has spent a total of six years in BYU's football program. On December 20, Tialavea will suit up as a BYU Cougar one last time.

"It's hard, and there's a lot of mixed feelings with this being the last game as a member of this team," Tialavea said. "I just want to go out with my spirit high no matter what the outcome is. I want to win this last game because I wish I was still playing. I know this will be my last game I ever play as a football player, so I want to make sure I leave everything out there on the field one last time.

"As a defense we worked our butts off this year. We deserve to finish the season with a win. I know this will be my last game as a football player, so I want to leave with all I've got. I'm going to give it all I've got one last time for all the seniors, my teammates and my coaches. That way when I leave here I can say I gave it my all. That's my goal for my final game."

But there's a higher purpose Tialavea has in mind. He wants to be sure that he does all that he can to win this final game for those who will return next year.

"We're going there to win this game with the purpose of moving the program forward for next year," said Tialavea. "Even though I won't be on the team, that's the impact and legacy we seniors can leave on the team. I think that is one thing that is very important. I want to play this last game with everything I have, so that way I can leave it for those who will be here next year. It will be up to them to carry it forward."

Tialavea is from Oceanside, California, so the bowl game will be a homecoming of sorts for him. In fact, he will have a lot of friends and family present, and said it will be fun playing in front of them.

"Yeah, we're going to come strong, man," Tialavea said. "My family is going to be there representing. All of my sisters and family will be there. I don't have a lot of family left down there but my mom, dad and sisters are still down there. I think my old high school coaches and a lot of people from the community will be there from Oceanside."

One close friend that Tialavea hopes can make it down to watch him play in his final game is former teammate Vic So'oto.

"He better come down and watch the game," said Tialavea. "Either way I'm sure he'll be watching it somewhere. I talk to him at least once a week and talk to him a lot. It would be good to have him down, but I'm sure he'll see the game one way or another."

Meanwhile, the Poinsettia Bowl will be an Oceanside High School reunion of sorts.

"Six guys from my old high school play on San Diego State," said Tialavea. "There was Rene [Siluano], who was our safety back in the days. He plays in the defensive backfield for San Diego State, so he's one. There's also [King] Holder, who plays defensive back also, and J.J. Whittaker, who was hurt last year. So those guys played at my high school and are in the defensive backfield. They were really good players for Oceanside back in the days and now I get to play against them in our bowl game.

"The other is Jake Fely, who is a good family friend and a member of the church," Tialavea continued. "He plays linebacker and will be someone who will be out there trying to stop our offense. I look forward to seeing him again.

"They also have Kenny Galea'i on the defensive line and he played at Oceanside back in the days. He has the same last name as Jray. I don't know if he's a cousin with Jray or not but he played at Oceanside. He's a bit younger than me because, man, I've been playing for six years, but those guys all played back at my high school. A lot of those guys played with my younger brothers and I played with their older brothers. It's going to be a lot of fun. I'm excited to go out and play against them in my last game."

Tialavea is happy to be playing his last game at the Poinsettia Bowl.

"Man, this kind of a special game for me," he said. "I get to go back home and play my last football game where it kind of all started for me. I get to go back home and play in front of my family and friends against a lot of guys from the same community where I grew up.

"I just realize that having been able to play this game was a real blessing for me, but being able to go back home where it's sunny and nice and [where] my family is to play one last time is a great way to step away from the game. Afterwards I'll be able to drive home and reminisce about the good times I had playing football with my teammates."

With some time to spend while visiting the San Diego area, Tialavea said prior to leaving Provo that he was hoping to show some of his buddies his hometown.

"Man, I've tried to convince a few of the guys to come down with me to Oceanside," Tialavea said with a laugh. "I was like, ‘Come on down to where I grew up and check out the beach down in Oceanside.' I'm trying to get a couple of the boys on the d-line to come down. We'll see I guess. I've been trying to convince them to come down and get a home-cooked meal from mom."

In reflecting over his BYU experience, Tialavea views this season, with all the shortcomings included, as one of the best years of his entire BYU career.

"It's going to be fun but I just can't wait to play with these guys one last time," said Tialavea. "I've never felt so much unity personally in a season since I've been here in 2005. It's going to be a lot of fun being out there with all these knuckleheads one last time. Statistically, if you look at our record, I think this is probably the worst season I've been a part of, but I think the relationships I've built with the guys on this team has been the strongest I've ever had. It's been fun and I just love them all. I'm sure when it's all said and done I'll probably shed a tear."

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