“It was hard, especially watching throughout the year how close the games were and how hard the guys were playing,” Tupou reflected after his first official practice back with the team on Thursday morning. “It was just hard that I couldn't be out there to fight to get more wins.”
Tupou will have the opportunity to do that this fall, though.
“It has been real exciting ever since I got back in May, seeing the progress the guys made over the year I was gone,” he said. “They got much better. It is pretty exciting to be back.”
Tupou was reluctant to share what his current weight is, and admitted he still needs to drop some pounds before the start of the season. He is listed on the official camp roster at 6-foot-3, 325-pounds.
“My current weight right now is still a work in progress,” he said. “Hopefully [I will] get down to where I need to be.”
Said Buffs head coach Mike MacIntyre: “[Tupou] has gotten in better and better shape as the summer as gone along. With big guys it usually takes them a little while into camp after we get the pads on and they start really going against each other. But he'll be ready to roll.”
Tupou was named honorable mention all-conference during his last season with the Buffs in 2014, and he was recently predicted by Phil Steele’s College Football to be a third-team All-Pac-12 performer in 2016. Aside from losing some weight, how much rust does Tupou have to work off to live up to those expectations?
“Not too much,” he said. “I just feel a little rust with the eyes, reading blocks again. But not too much with tackling because [last year] I played rugby, which is kind of similar to football.”
Tupou's wide frame makes him a perfect fit for the nose tackle role in Jim Leavitt's defensive scheme. If he starts against Colorado State, like most expect, it will be his 32nd start as a Buff.
“Nose [tackle] is a position where someone can be really physical, so I like my role in it. If it limits my sacks and stats, I am fine with that. As long as it is helping our team win and our defense get better,” he said.
Tupou could have transferred to another program last year, or tried to make an NFL squad this year. But he always knew he wanted to come back to Colorado to finish what he started.
“I learned to be more appreciative of what this opportunity means,” Tupou expressed. “There are a lot of people that don't have this opportunity. I got humbled and [I] really appreciate Coach 'Mac' and the University of Colorado [for the opportunity] to come back and get a degree and play football.”