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Tukuafu on a new mission

Posted Jun 9, 2010

After putting his college career on hold for three years to concentrate on his LDS mission, former Oregon defensive end Will Tukuafu hopes to earn a spot in the NFL with the Seahawks.

Another day, another roster move. Or eight.

The Seahawks, who already have turned over a larger percentage of their final 2009 roster than any team in the league, continued to tinker with that already revamped roster Wednesday by signing two draft choices, as well as a pair of rookie free agents.

Signing multi-year contracts were linebacker Dexter Davis and tight end Jameson Konz, who were selected in the seventh round of the April NFL draft. Also signed after being given tryouts on Tuesday were Will Tukuafu (6-3, 272), a defensive end from Oregon, and Barrett Moen (6-4, 282) a defensive tackle from Minnesota.

Coming, and Going

The Seahawks sign four players Wednesday, and released four others:

Draft choices signed
LB Dexter Davis (seventh round)
TE Jameson Konz (seventh round)

Rookie free agents signed
DE Will Tukuafu
DT Barrett Moen

Players released
TE Michael Allan
WR Patrick Carter
LB Kevin Dixon
FS Quinton Teal

The well-traveled Tukuafu definitely has a story worth retelling, but let’s start with an explanation of how he got here.  

Among the players released to clear roster spots was Michael Allan, a tight end from Whitworth and Bellevue’s Interlake High School who was signed three weeks ago. Also released were free safety Quinton Teal, wide receiver Patrick Carter and rookie linebacker Kevin Dixon.

Carter had been signed to a futures contract in January, while Dixon was added after the draft and Teal was signed in late April.

The Seahawks have had as many as 89 players on their roster – and currently are at 85 – while waiting for their draft choices to sign. General manager John Schneider is using these extra spots to look at extra players.

“We basically have those spots that we can kind of continue to rotate through and just kind of work some guys out – and have extended workouts instead of the normal, half-hour, one-on-one workout,” he said. “We’re not going to be right every time, but we’re going to continue to work to try and figure it out.”

Tukuafu is just happy to be part of the figure-it-out process. After not being selected in the draft, he attended minicamps with the San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins on a tryout basis without getting a contract.

That changed Tuesday. Tukuafu, along with Moen, was signed after working out for the Seahawks. He then took part in the offseason conditioning program Wednesday morning, before putting in some extra work with line coach Dan Quinn to get him ready for Thursday’s OTA practice.

All this came with some sage advice from strength and conditioning coach Chris Carlisle.

“Like coach Carlisle said, ‘It’s like you’re in a choir and you’ve got to hum along right now. You don’t know the song, so just kind of hum,’ ” Tukuafu offered.

But then Tukuafu’s less-traveled path to this latest audition with an NFL team has been accompanied by the beat of a different drummer.

The next-to-youngest in a family of 16 kids, he has 10 brothers and five sisters. Which prompts the obvious question: How did he get enough to eat to grow into his now imposing body?

“We had a good rotation going in the house,” Tukuafu said with a smile. “While some of the older siblings were moving out, the younger ones were coming in.”

The smile became a laugh as he added, “That, and a lot of Top Ramen noodles.”

He’s also 26, because he took a year off after high school to save money for his LDS mission and then spent two more years in Jamaica on that mission “preaching the gospel,” as he put it.

Once he returned, Tukuafu discovered he was a quarter of a science credit short of graduating from East High School in Salt Lake City, which scuttled his plan to attend BYU. Instead, he went to Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College for a year to play football and then Mesa (Ariz.) CC to complete his associate degree – and not play football.

That led him to Oregon, where he started 37 of 39 games in three seasons for the Ducks. In 2007, when he started 11 games, Tukuafu was voted the Casanova Award as the top newcomer in the program. He started 13 games in 2008 and also last season, when he was voted his team’s most inspirational player and outstanding defensive lineman, as well as earning second team All-Pac-10 honors.

But Tukuafu realizes that while all that might get him a foot in the door, he won’t earn him a roster spot.

“That’s all you can ask for is an opportunity,” he said. “Nothing is guaranteed at this level. You’ve just got to come to work every day. I understand that. You can be gone as soon as they brought you in, so you never want to feel comfortable being here. Not so comfortable where you’re not working hard. You’ve got to know that you’ve got to earn it every day.

“But I’m excited to be here.”