Lotulelei likes his chances
John Lotulelei is in bring-it-on mode.
The undrafted free-agent rookie linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks out of Baldwin High School and Nevada-Las Vegas knows now is the time that will determine his immediate future with the team.
Organized team activities and minicamp have been completed. The next and final step is training camp, which will open in late July.
“I finished OTAs and minicamp really strong, left a great impression,” Lotulelei said last week. “Right now we have workouts and I just can’t wait to get back when we come back for camp.”
Individual workouts for rookies with Seattle strength and conditioning coach Chris Carlisle end today. The work is daunting.
“You do 20 push-ups on a bench, 15 on a ball and then 10 on the ground,” Carlisle said on the team website in a story published Friday. “When they’re done with their two sets of that, they can’t lift themselves off the ground.
“But they’re enjoying it. There’s a lot of teaching still going on with these young guys.”
Lotulelei fits that description, being called in for extra work with fellow undrafted free-agent linebacker Craig Wilkins.
“Right now we are trying to learn their version of staying healthy and staying fit,” Lotulelei said. “I got along with the players, I got along with the coaches. The coaches have me and this other linebacker coming in early, 6 o’clock in the morning to catch up on plays that the veterans know. It is great experience.”
The 5-foot-11, 233-pound Lotulelei likes his chances at becoming just the third Maui County product to claim a spot on an NFL 53-man roster, joining current Oakland Raiders linebacker Kaluka Maiava and retired defensive lineman Kimo von Oelhoffen.
“I am going to do what I have to do,” Lotulelei said. “You know what? I do feel confident that I am going to make this roster. I am just trying to take my playing to another step, another notch. Last week at minicamp I feel like I improved from OTAs. At OTAs I started learning all the plays.
“The roster, just hearing about it, gets your heart beating pretty fast. That’s the mentality that I am going to have to live with from now until the time of making the cuts. I have to be confident of making the roster.”
Lotulelei has stepped up several times since graduating from Baldwin in 2009. He went to Merced (Calif.) Junior College before UNLV, and then became the first Rebel to receive an invitation to the NFL combine since 2010.
He was a Mountain West Conference first-teamer and UNLV’s defensive MVP for 2012. His 120 tackles as a senior are the 10th-most in a season in school history.
At the combine, he ranked in the top seven among linebackers in four drills.
Still, he went undrafted, which serves as motivation for one of several successful athletes from Anisi and Mele Lotulelei’s family.
Younger brother Tau will receive a football scholarship from UNLV in August for his first season with the team after redshirting last year. Younger sister Christina won the discus title and was second in the shot put at the state track and field meet last month as a Maui High senior. Older brother Saia advanced to the NAIA national wrestling tournament in March after more than 10 years away from the sport.
Youngest sibling Soane Vaohea is preparing for his sophomore season of football at Maui High after a standout varsity debut as a freshman.
“I talked to them all almost, like, every day,” John Lotulelei said. “I am a lonely guy, I want to know what they are doing, what’s going on back on Maui or back in Vegas.”
Christina Lotulelei is set to go to Merced to play basketball and compete in track and field.
“I told her she has to keep up on grades because she had the UNLV track coach looking at her,” John Lotulelei said.
“I told her what I went through, so she knows what she has to do.”
Lotulelei also keeps up with cousin and recent Baldwin graduate Miki Fangatua, a defensive lineman who is headed to Merced as well.
“Miki is a baller – I called my coach from Merced Junior College and said, ‘If you can bring him up there he will do the job,’ ” Lotulelei said. “It looks like that is working out pretty well.”
Lotulelei laughed when asked if Tau could turn out to be a better football player.
“I always tell him, ‘No,’ ” John Lotulelei said. “But he is faster than me, he is taller than me, he has all the tools.”
All of the family’s athletes get advice from Saia, one of three three-time state wrestling champions in MIL history.
“He is the older and wiser one, so he gives us his own experience,” John said. “It is always comforting coming from him. We all look up to him.”
Lotulelei has clearly learned one of the most basic parts of making it in the NFL.
“Even without pads, you are trying to beat the other guy, the guy opposite of you,” he said. “You have to be professional now.”
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org