July 13, 2008

Tupou takes advantage of opportunity

Christian Tupou's just finished up with his workout, and the Trojan defensive tackle has his shirt off, sweating.

He's working hard; there's no question.

With Averell Spicer sidelined during the spring after knee surgery, Tupou saw a door opened. And, he walked through.

"I was actually blessed. It was a blessing to have an opportunity open up for me," he said. "Every practice, I was the guy. Each one of those days, I had to prove to those coaches that I deserved to be in the starting lineup.

"My goal is to start, but I know it comes with a lot of work."

Tupou knows his spring helped vault him into serious consideration as the Trojan's opening day starting nose tackle. But getting there wasn't easy.

"I was pleased every week this spring. What I would do is I'd try to come in every week with a new goal," Tupou said. "One week, it'd be getting my stance week, and another week it'd getting off the ball as fast as I could."

And he had help. Coaches David Watson and Nick Holt helped keep Tupou focused on winning small victories throughout the spring.

"I have to give credit to the coaches. Every day, Coach Sweaty and Coach Holt would find something new for me to work on," Tupou said. "Every week, I improved on something - playing over the center, cross-facing my pirate techniques. I improved every week, and because of that, I see the spring as a success."

The timing was right, also.

"In the season, it goes by so fast. You're always worrying the game at the end of the week," Tupou said. "During the spring, every day was a chance for me to improve myself. You could come in and not worry about Saturday.

"All you have to worry about is getting better, focused on one thing. That's what helped me."

The good spring has carried over to summer workouts, where's he's focused on keeping his motor going for longer stretches of time.

"Conditioning has been good for me," he said. We don't do average dashes; we do things position wise. That's helped me out a lot."

And he knows he has more work to do. Watching Fili Moala and Sedrick Ellis patrol the middle of the defensive line last season means Tupou, who's currently at 280 pounds, is holding himself to a higher standard.

"I don't feel quick enough. Last year, Fili and Sedrick set the bar high," Tupou said. "I want to be on that level. Watching their film doesn't make me feel that quick."

But Moala has taken Tupou under his wing, doing whatever he can to help his fellow countryman get his game to where it needs to be.

"It doesn't get any better than playing with Fili. He's Tongan, and I'm Tongan. For him playing right next to me, I know he's been through everything. He's like a big-brother type. I can relate to him - same blood and everything. It just helps to have a Tongan brother right next to me.

"As a Tongan, you worry about others before you take care of yourself. That's something that Fili's done with me. He's really helped me out a lot. Other guys do that too, but that's a big thing for Tongans."

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