Snapshot: Zach Tuiasosopo

When Zach Tuiasosopo found himself in trouble with the law, he had his family to lean on. When Tuiasosopo was passed over by every NFL team in the draft, he had his family to lean on. And when Tuiasosopo was forced to miss spring drills because of an NFL rule, this long shot of a Steelers' rookie fullback kept his cool with the help of his family. And it's some family. Here's the roll call:

•Father Manu was Seattle's first-round draft pick in 1979 and the defensive lineman played eight years in the NFL.

•Older sister Leslie was a first-team Pac-10 volleyball middle hitter at Washington and went on to play professionally in Spain.

•Older brother Marques was the MVP of the 2001 Rose Bowl for Washington and is a quarterback with the Oakland Raiders.

•Younger brother Matt turned down a scholarship from Washington to accept a $2.3 million signing bonus in baseball. The shortstop is a consensus top-five prospect with the Seattle Mariners.

•Three of Zach's cousins played with him at Washington.

•Four other cousins played in the NFL, including former 49ers center Jesse Sapolu.

•An uncle, Johnny Olszewski, was an All-American at Cal and played in the NFL with the Chicago Cardinals.

•Another uncle punted at USC.

•Four other cousins played major college football and another played women's basketball at Stanford.

And the family pets are said to be considering a jump straight to the Westminster Kennel Club.

It's obviously a family of purebreds. Was it an advantage for Zach?

"I guess I'd have to say yes and no because our family never forced it on us," said Tuiasosopo. "My parents never pushed sports on us as kids. I think my dad just understood that if his kids want to play an instrument, if they want to play sports, run marathons, than that's what they want. He wanted us to do what we wanted to do, not because he did it, or our uncles did it."

So while football was in his blood, it wasn't forced down his throat.

"We just grew to love it," he said. "I mean, I think this is the next closest thing you can come to a family, inside a locker room like this, with the setting, the players, the unity, the togetherness. When you're on the field, it's an amazing feeling."

His greatest college highlight, in fact, occurred when he was on the sideline, dressed in his redshirt, watching his brother's MVP performance in the Rose Bowl.

"Oh, my gosh. That was the highlight. That was my first year there. That was probably one of the best experiences in football I've had until today. I wasn't playing, but to take in everything, I used that to progress."

Zach remains closest with Marques, who guided Zach through the post-draft blues. Zach had missed most of his senior season with a broken leg. The 6-2, 249-pounder gained 62 yards on 5 carries and caught 5 passes for 47 yards before his injury. He was considered one of the best available fullbacks in the draft, but wasn't drafted and signed with the Steelers as a free agent.

He plays faster than his 4.89 40 time would indicate, has good hands, and is as tough as a former linebacker should be. His brush with the law (attacking an unoccupied car with fists and head) is considered an aberration by scouts, who point to the solid family behind him.

"Man, when you first start playing football your dream is to go to the NFL," Tuiasosopo said. "That's the first thing you think about, and it's coming true. Just getting a shot to play in the NFL has been one of my top priorities ever since I started playing. And now that I'm here, I'm going to do everything I can to stay up here."

With the Steelers, he'll have to block first, show good hands second and run a little bit in a pinch. "I'll be any type of fullback that they want me to be," he said. "I have no problem with sticking my head in the middle there and getting walloped a couple times."

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