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April 22, 2010Who would have predicted, one year ago, that the Pac-10 would boast only two first-round picks in this year's NFL Draft? Furthermore, who would have predicted that both of them would come out of Strawberry Canyon instead of Heritage Hall? It would surely have been lunacy.
But there stood now-former Cal defensive end Tyson Alualu, in the middle of his living room, surrounded by family and friends as he got the call from the Jacksonville Jaguars, informing him that he would be the No. 10 overall pick.
"They had told me that they were interested, but I never thought that they would pick me in the top 10," Alualu said. "I thought that they would definitely trade down if they wanted to pick me. But, I'm just blessed to be here and to be part of the Jaguar family now We came in thinking that I would be a second-round pick, so we were kind of more prepared for tomorrow, but God had different plans."
Twenty picks later, Bears running back Jahvid Best, who made the trip out to New York, was taken by the Detroit Lions, and will be reunited with Cal linebacking great Zach Follett. Round over. Bears: 2, rest-of-the-Pac-10: zippo.
"I just saw Jahvid get picked up, and I was so happy for him. He's definitely a steal, going to the Lions, and he should have been in the top five," Alualu said. "Just being one of the few chosen out of the Pac-10 is just a blessing."
Asked if he ever thought that he'd be drafted ahead of Best, Alualu chuckled.
"That's the crazy thing, man, just the type of athlete and player that Jahvid is, he definitely belongs in the top five," Alualu said. "He's one of the best players I've ever seen play the game of football. The kind of person he is, on and off the field, I definitely think, with his talent, he could have been No. 1 overall. To get picked before him, I'm just excited and blessed. I'll definitely take full advantage of what I have now. I can't explain it, but I'm just blessed to be here."
Best was unavailable for comment.
Alualu's selection was a surprise even to him, as he had expected to be taken at the end of the first round or in the first half of the second.
"It came as a shock to a lot of people, my family here, and also to myself," Alualu said. "I was just sitting around, and when I got the phone call, I wasn't thinking anything about them picking me up, and then they said that it's the Jacksonville Jaguars, and you're the 10th pick. It was crazy how it all worked out.
"I got the call, and they were talking to me for a little while, and I thought it was just another call, and then, at the end, they said 'Congratulations,' so it caught me off-guard."
But, instead, he beat out USC safety Taylor Mays and UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price as the first Pac-10 defender taken in the draft, with Mays even falling past his former head coach at USC-current Seattle Seahawks skipper Pete Carroll. Alualu is Cal's highest draft pick since Andre Carter was selected seventh overall by the San Francisco 49ers in 2001, and is the school's ninth top-10 pick in the history of the Draft.
"I thought that I was more of a late-first-rounder, but it's a blessing to be 10th overall in the whole draft," Alualu said. "I was with my family, just watching here, and it's just crazy how everything worked out. Everyone was shocked. I don't know how to explain it. Words can't express all the feelings I have."
Alualu will likely play defensive tackle for the Jags, who went 7-9 last season with a league-worst 14 sacks.
"They said that they want to use me more on the inside, but we'll see when I go up there in mini camp and how everything turns out," Alualu said. "I'm definitely ready to give it my all and show what I can do, and I don't want to disappoint anybody."
Alualu's ferocity on the interior should help to elevate Jacksonville's anemic pass rush, as he comes in with a career-high 65 tackles last season to lead all conference defensive linemen, along with 7.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss.
"The No. 10 pick overall comes with high expectations as far as what kind of player I am," Alualu said. "Not being projected to go as high as I was picked, I've definitely got a chip on my shoulder, just wanting to work harder to show that I am worthy of the pick. I can't disappoint any of the fans or anyone else in the Jaguar family. I'm very excited to go ahead and get started with my career there. I just can't wait."
During the 2010 Under Armour Senior Bowl, Alualu laid a four-yard sack on 2007 Heisman Trophy winner and first-round selection of the Denver Broncos, Tim Tebow. During the NFL Scouting Combine in February, Alualu was one of the top performers at defensive end, posting a 4.87 40-yard time, 21 bench press reps and a 35.5-inch vertical leap.
"What definitely helped me out a lot were the Combine and the Senior Bowl," Alualu said. "It was definitely a blessing that I got to showcase what kind of athlete I was. It definitely helped me out, all that hard work, the long two months of training, I think it just helped put me in the right position to get where I am now."
Alualu gave a lot of credit to his defensive line coach, Tosh Lupoi.
"He's just been such a big help for me, Coach Lupoi, we've gotten so close, and I look at him like my bigger brother," Alualu said. "I'm just happy I met these coaches, and all the people who helped me get to the position I'm in now."