NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had barely negotiated pronunciation of Tyson Alualu’s name on draft day in April when Jacksonville fans and media began expressing dismay with the Jaguars’ first-round selection.
"WHYYYYYYYYY?" the Orlando Sentinel groused.
"Predictably, whether it is e-mails or responses to the Times-Union website … the pronouncements of the Jaguars’ demise and eventual move to Los Angeles have begun," Jacksonville.com reported.
It wasn’t anything against Alualu — a defensive lineman they hardly knew — as much as the unreal demand that he wasn’t Tim Tebow, the sainted Sunshine State quarterback the Jags had passed on.
Going on four months later, Alualu still isn’t Tebow, but you hope folks in Jacksonville are beginning to learn that Alualu can be special in his own right, on and off the field.
Given time and the benefit of open minds, Alualu, a Saint Louis School graduate, is likely to bust through perceptions the way he did blocks in the Pac-10 for California the last three seasons.
Already, there is something endearing — well, a lot, really — about a newly minted young millionaire’s first purchases being a home for his family and a church for his community.
It is hardly de rigueur spending in the NFL, where the money is more likely to be lavished on a fleet of fast cars and a faster after-hours life for the player’s crew. While some players might drop a wad into the offering plate, Alualu is going for the whole building on the lot he said he has purchased in Kalihi.
The NFL gives its suddenly affluent rookies seminars in how to handle fame and vast fortune, too often without success. But before setting foot in one, Alualu has shown that he already gets it on several fronts. Most telling is that this was from the heart and not some PR-driven gesture.
All in all, from his first pronouncements about "practicing hard with my teammates and giving it my all" he’s begun to open some eyes and, maybe, some hearts.
So much so that as Alualu signed his five-year, $28 million contract and made his first appearance in camp this week, the feeling is that a thaw, however gradual, is taking place.
Maybe reality is finally setting in because, as it turns out, there was actually a method to Jags’ general manager Gene Smith’s "madness" on draft day. As much as the Jags need to put fans back into a stadium that had an NFL-high seven blackouts in 2009 in the short haul, they also need to win for the sake of the franchise in the wider term.
For the Jags, who had a franchise-low 14 sacks in 2009, it begins with defense. It starts with someone putting pressure on the quarterback. Alualu, through 40 starts for the Golden Bears, has shown he is capable of that, and doing it relentlessly.
In fact, it might have been his signature sack and strip of Tebow in a Senior Bowl YouTube moment, as much as his measurables at workouts, that helped bring him into focus for the Jags.
Make no mistake, however, for the $17.5 million bonus they are forking over, the Jags are asking plenty of Alualu. And, he is beginning to grasp the challenge of being an impact player sooner rather than later.
"The pressure is on me, being the 10th pick, I got a lot to do to meet those expectations," Alualu told the Associated Press.
As he does, who knows, the pick many in Jacksonville seemed determined to disapprove of in April just might bring them around in time.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com.