Tialavea Proves his Worthiness

Rated as one of the top D-linemen to come out of the state of California in 2004, Russell Tialavea was surrounded by high expectations when he arrived at BYU. After suffering through an injury, subsequent surgery, and a team disciplinary situation, Tialavea is showing why he should still be a Cougar.

The one person BYU needed to grow the most during spring camp was big Russell Tialavea. That growth never happened due to an off-the-field incident that left Tialavea's position on the team in question. The Oceanside, California product worked hard all summer to return to good standing with the team.

"No, I won't be playing in [the Arizona] game," said Tialavea in a voice just above a whisper. "I'm still gone for that game because that's one of the things Coach Mendenhall set [as a consequence] for me during last spring."

Tialavea continued to talk meekly about the trials he endured over the summer to prove himself worth too be included as a member of BYU's football team. Without asking him any questions concerning the incident, Tialavea spoke about the consequences and how it has affected him personally.

"It's helped me a lot," said Tialavea. "Coach Mendenhall set up some guidelines for me to accomplish. It was hard, but I made it through and now I'm a better person because of it. He set up personal things for me and throughout the summer I had to work on doing those things in order for me to get back on the team. I was just trying so hard to complete everything and I really tried my hardest not to let down my coach and all the players. I finished everything and got the chance to come back on the team."

Looking over towards Coach Mendenhall as he walked by, Tialavea said with a smile, "Now I'm the strongest inside than I've ever been."

Manning the middle of the second string defense flanked by Brett Denny and Kyle Leukenga, Tialavea stayed after practice on Monday with the rest of the D-line group to further work on improving his game. Senior defensive tackle Hala Paongo gave him a few pointers on pass rushing and then lined up across from him to allow him to practice the moves.

"I'm just working hard and learning from Hala," said Tialavea. "He's helping me to learn how to read, how to get off the blocks and what to do against one on one's. Romney [Fuga] and I are just learning and trying to get better. Hala is pushing and pushing me to get better and to make sure I don't quit on anybody.

"I'm doing good everyday and I'm learning everything Coach Mendenhall teaches, and with everything with the one on one stuff."

The entire defensive line group fully understands what is riding on their young shoulders. This group of young defenders are a special unit and will become a dominant force in years to come. In observing this young bunch going all out during today's practice without the use of pads against an already battle hardened and talented offensive line, is like watching a younger brother trying to beat up his older brother. They never gave up and just got madder and madder as practice wore on.

"There are a lot of expectations for the incoming freshman," Tialavea said. "We know what the coaches expect from us and right now what's on everybody's mind is fulfilling those expectations the coaches have for us. That's one of the reasons why everyone is trying so hard right now.

"We have to step up, especially the new guys on the team and we just have to step up to help support the seniors. We're not going to come in like freshman and act like we don't know what we are doing. We want to come out and play like we've been here a couple of years."

In regards to the older more experienced D-line players, Tialavea sees how much they've progressed from spring, through summer by how much resistance they're giving the offense.

"Since spring we've all been progressing," said Tialavea. "I can see it and now that it's fall we're all just going out and just doing our best to pick it up even more. We're all just learning from some of the more experienced guys. Hala [Paongo] is a great leader and he's doing his best to help us anyway he can. Right now because there are a bunch of new guys, we're all just fighting and working hard for our spots. We have a really good young defensive line right now. We just need to learn and continue to get stronger."

In time these young defenders will learn how to utilize their talents more fully and affectively once the technique they're learning becomes second nature. Currently, the lessons they're learning may be learned the hard way, especially when one considers the talent across the offensive line doing the teaching.

"Man, they're the best in the Mountain West," smiled Tialavea. "Oh man, Jake [Kuresa], Eddie [Keele], Ray [Feinga] and Seti [Aulai] and all of them are all monsters. They are going to be one of the best linemen around. I'm glad we have those guys on our team so us D-line guys don't have to worry about going up against them in a game. I don't think we'll go up against a better group of guys throughout the season. It's good for us to practice against them everyday because it makes us younger guys better. The best way to learn is to go up against the best."

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