So often, the only thing college football fans generally ever hear when a story involves athletes and academics is bad news. Well, this time the news is good. Senior defensive tackle Alex Toailoa is back in Vandal gear after missing the 2007 season; a season in which he was forced to the sidelines to focus on his studies.
So often the athlete never makes it back onto the field. But in this case, Alex did.
Alex Toailoa in action against WSU, 2006
GoVandals.net's Larry Johnson caught up with Alex after the second day of practice this week, and files this interview.
LARRY JOHNSON: How does it feel to be back?
ALEX TOAILOA: "It feels good. Senior year, oh man. Words can't even explain what I've been through to get back over here, but it feels good."
LJ: Can you give us a quick recap of what it took to get back?
AT: "Well, I had to go home, I had to take extra classes back at the local JC, constant work and schooling. A lot of classes just to get back to where I am now, and I'm still doing that as we talk right now."
LJ: When you were recruited you were recruited by Nick Holt and his staff, and now you're back and now it's Robb Akey and his staff. How does it feel to be back under this staff?
AT: "It feels good. Robb Akey's a great coach. Way different, way more relaxed, not as intense as Holt was, but a great guy. A great guy."
LJ: And what do you think of the Nike gear?
AT: "Oh, man. It's better. Better than when I first got here my freshman year in 2004. We were wearing Adidas and now Nike? I think that our program has come a long way."
LJ: And when you were here in ‘04, the weight room had just opened and the locker room wasn't quite done yet. Now that's done and more, much more; so how do you feel about the facilities?
AT: "I'm just happy to experience all this, to be here still after four years and just experience all this as a senior. It feels great."
AT: "My body has to get used to a couple more days, but I've been here all summer; so it shouldn't be that much work to do – but I know I've got to get better every day."
LJ: Are you saying you had a good summer in the weight room?
AT: "Yeah, I would say I had a great summer. I mean it's the first time I actually stayed here all summer from coming back from home; so yeah."
LJ: And what do you expect your role to be on the defense this year?
AT: "Just to be a leader. Being a guy with a lot of experience, I want to show the younger guys what it takes to come this far, so yeah."
LJ: And what you expect to do during the season.
AT: "During the season I expect to play hard, use my experience and what I've learned over the years. Transfer that onto the field and teach the younger players what I am able to do, and teach them what they can do to get better."
LJ: All right. Thank you very much.
AT: "Thank you very much Larry."