Tyson Alualu has a surprise waiting for him when he gets to Jacksonville’s training camp: a matchup in the "Oklahoma drill" against fellow Hawaii standout and childhood friend Vince Manuwai.
Alualu, the 10th overall pick in April’s draft, ended a five-day holdout yesterday by agreeing to a five-year contract worth $28 million. The deal, which came a day after the Jaguars prematurely announced it, includes $17.5 million guaranteed.
The former California defensive tackle, who played high school ball at Saint Louis School, is expected to arrive in Jacksonville today. He should be on the field a short time later.
And Manuwai will be waiting.
The 333-pound guard, an eight-year veteran, who played at Farrington and the University of Hawaii, requested a matchup against Alualu in the one-on-one drill that has become an annual tradition during Jacksonville’s first full-pads practice. Alualu missed that session Sunday night, but coach Jack Del Rio honored Manuwai’s request and scheduled a special edition today.
"Oh yeah, he’ll definitely have one," Del Rio said. "Mr. Vince Manuwai would like to welcome him. Since they grew up in the same … neighborhood, he’d like to welcome him to the NFL, and so they’re going to have an Oklahoma drill."
"That should be fun," Alualu told the Star-Advertiser just before boarding the plane yesterday afternoon. "I’m excited about that. That sounds nice."
Alualu and Manuwai grew up across the street from each other in Kalihi. Both made it to the NFL, although Alualu’s path wasn’t nearly as smooth.
One of nine children raised in a Polynesian culture that centers on family and faith, Alualu was badly homesick when he left for college at Cal. He considered dropping out as a freshman, but instead, went home, married his high school sweetheart and returned to Berkeley with their newborn son.
The decision paid dividends.
Alualu started 39 of 51 games for the Bears and finished with 16 sacks and 190 tackles. Most draft pundits considered him a late first-round pick, mostly because there were questions about whether he would play tackle or end.
He played end as a senior, but the Jaguars believe he can team with Terrance Knighton and form the kind of tackle tandem Pro Bowlers Marcus Stroud and John Henderson gave the franchise for years.
"I definitely feel I can come in and give them what they are looking for," Alualu said during offseason workouts. "I don’t want to disappoint anybody. I will definitely give them my all. I’m ready to come in and compete and try to earn that spot."
Although no one projected Alualu to get drafted so high, he silenced some critics with his performance in minicamp and organized team activities. He showed solid footwork, even better hands and dominated matchups with veteran offensive linemen.
"No one had him projected as a first-rounder," agent Kenneth Zuckerman said. "For him, this has been an amazing story."
The Jaguars had hoped to get Alualu in camp on time, especially after lengthy holdouts by first-rounders Derrick Harvey (33 days in 2008) and Eugene Monroe (12 days in 2009), but negotiations were slow last week. Things heated up when several of the top-10 picks started to sign, and the Jaguars offered the $28 million deal.
Alualu’s agent told team officials he liked the deal and would suggest that his client accept. But Alualu wanted time to talk to his family and "pray on it." The Jaguars seemingly got mixed signals, though, believing Zuckerman told them Alualu had signed off on the deal.
Del Rio and general manager Gene Smith announced after practice Sunday night that Alualu had agreed to terms and was getting on a flight from Honolulu. But Zuckerman quickly dispelled the notion, saying Alualu was still mulling the offer.
He eventually accepted — and now has a much-hyped showdown looming with Manuwai.
"I feel good," Alualu said. "It’s all God’s timing. I’m just happy it’s over and now I can get to play for my team and get back and practice with them. Get out there and start to bang."