Senior Tight End Believes Hard Work and Dedication Will Achieve His Goals of Providing for His Family
Oct. 11, 2013
LOGAN, Utah - by Megan Allen, USU Athletic Media Relations
There are many things that can drive and motivate a person. Money, fame and recognition are often high on the list of things that encourage someone to succeed. For senior tight end D.J. Tialavea, however, none of those things matter.
In every decision he makes, every touchdown he scores and every test he takes, Tialavea's mind is solely focused on his family and his desire to succeed for them.
As the middle of three children and the only son of his parents Don and Tami, Tialavea has been through a lot. With a bedridden father and a younger sister with cerebral palsy, he was forced to grow up quickly and help out with things most young boys never dream of dealing with.
"My family situation is pretty tough. We've been going through a lot these last 10 years," Tialavea said. "We've bonded close together and really need each other and have each other's backs."
Because of everything going on at home, Tialavea is especially grateful for the opportunity he had to play so close to his family. A West Jordan native, he is a mere 90 miles from the home he grew up in.
"Family is always a phone call away for anyone, but when you're only an hour and a half away; it's great," Tialavea said. "I had a great opportunity to come here and stay close to home. I'm glad they can come up here to come to games, and at times when they need me I can go home."
Though it took him awhile to warm up to the place, Tialavea has made a home in Logan and found another family he can call his own. This family, his team, is one very different from the one he's always known though.
"Growing up in my family with my situation, I had to grow up fast and be a man," he said. "I didn't really have too many guy friends, and I have two sisters. Coming up here and being around so much testosterone is kind of cool. I learn a lot every day," Tialavea said.
With more than 100 people on the team and coaching staff, that really is a lot of testosterone. That is more than 100 different stories, 100 backgrounds, 100 homes that one can become a part of.
"Everyone is from different cultures and different parts of the country. I love that about these boys," Tialavea said. "I love making new friends and bonds that I can take with me for my whole life."
As a part of that team family, Tialavea has become one of the big brothers. A fifth-year senior, he has been though a lot of ups and downs that have come with Aggie football. As a redshirt his first season, the team went 4-8, a record that even at that point was considered a pretty spectacular improvement from the previous years.
"I know where the program was and I know where we're trying to go," Tialavea said. "I think it's on me and the other fifth-years to teach these young guys to build the tradition. We're lucky and we're fortunate enough to have all these new facilities, but we still have to put in the work."
That work is something Tialavea is dedicated to and has proven to himself, his coaches and his teammates.
"As a senior, as a leader, as a part of the offense, I just try to push our guys to work hard every day and play hard every single practice," he said.
Another side of Tialavea's family mindset stems from his culture and background. Hailing from a Samoan family, he has the Polynesian connection that so many Aggies and athletes from the state of Utah have.
Regardless of the team they're on or the background they come from, Polynesian football players have an immediate connection and camaraderie.
"If you walk in the locker room, even if you don't know a Polynesian, you just have that instant connection. It's the first guy you go to, knowing they have your back. We always look out for each other," Tialavea said. "Everybody's parents taught them the same things, we all came up in the same culture. We get where each other is coming from."
No matter what comes up and no matter which part it may be, family is the number one thing in Tialavea's life. It is the constant voice in his head driving him to succeed. Everything he does is done not just for himself, but for each member of his family. As he looks to the future, they are what keep him going.
Sometimes that drive is for his father.
"He looks to live his life through me. I live every day wanting to make him proud and make him happy," Tialavea said. "When it's Game Day, he's happy. When I play well, he's happy."
Other times, that drive is for his mother and his sisters and his desire to take care of them.
"My mom works so hard; I just want to get myself in the best position possible to be able to take care of my sisters and have her be able to relax," he said. "I just want my family to be proud of me and comfortable. Whether it's football or some other job, I want to do that for them."
Then there are the times that his drive is for the team and the brotherhood that has come with it.
"In life you're not just going to get things handed to you, you have to work. You're going to start at the bottom and you have to work for it," Tialavea said. "This has been a five-year process, so I know what it takes. Beyond football, in life and a job and a family, it takes a lot of hard work. I just want to set a good example for these guys to know they need to work hard to be successful."
Through his hard work and dedication, Tialavea has already graduated from Utah State with a bachelors degree in interdisciplinary studies, emphasizing in sports management. He is currently working on his master's degree in education.