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An Unexpected Return For Tatupu

When former Seahawks Linebacker, Lofa Tatupu, answered his phone with General Manager, John Schneider, on the other line, it wasn't a call he was expecting.

It wasn't the call Lofa Tatupu was expecting.

General Manager John Schneider was on the phone offering the former Seahawks linebacker a job that would get him back on the field for the first time in almost two years.

"I had always dreamed of being a scout and maybe working my way up the ranks through that," Tatupu explained. "But when he called me and said he had a job for me he explained it was going to be for coaching. I was excited about it."

Tatupu's title of assistant linebackers coach won't surprise fans that remember the three-time Pro Bowler who made an immediate impact as a rookie in 2005. Tatupu shored up a unit looking for stability and played a key role in leading the Seahawks to their first Super Bowl appearance. Shortly after the Super Bowl loss to Pittsburgh, Tatupu was approached by his position coach Zerick Rollins who asked about Tatupu's career plans after football.

"The thing I love is that he actually cared about what happened to us after football and we were just rookies," Tatupu said. "So we're like, 'We just finished a great season so why are you coming at us with this?'"

The timing seemed odd but Rollins saw as much potential off the field as he did on the field for his rookie. Tatupu was a constant presence around the facility and had a knack for breaking down film. Rollins suggested a career in coaching, but Tatupu didn't think he had the patience. 

"Because even as hard as I worked as a player I know you repeated yourself to me too many times for me to put up with that," Tatupu recalled of his conversation with Rollins.

His coach offered another option.  

"He said, 'Have you ever thought about scouting?' and I said, 'Absolutely! I love watching film and I love finding talent.' So it's just something that kind of spoke to me," Tatupu said.

He didn't wait to finish his playing career before starting to prepare for what he thought would be his next one. Each offseason, prior to the draft, Tatupu would grade the incoming linebackers and compare his notes and rankings against those made by Rollins. He filled an entire notebook with his evaluations and kept another filled with information on offensive coordinators around the league.

"What their scheme was and how they attacked us," Tatupu explained about the type of notes he kept. "The NFL coaching network is not usually a huge one and they usually have specific philosophies for coaching regimes. They might be on a new team but coordinators are still going to run what they run best and what they know best."

What Tatupu thought he would lack in patience he made up for in preparation. It was always part of his game. At 6'0" and 238 pounds he couldn't afford to simply try and overpower opponents. He had to be strategic, which is something former linebacker coach Ken Norton, Jr. wanted the current linebacking core to notice.

"Coach Norton made me watch him a lot. I watched his game. So to have him a part of the coaching staff is great because I actually exchanged numbers with him my rookie year and wanted to pick his brain," middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. "He wasn't always the biggest athlete, but the way he made plays and seeing plays and let things develop, I'm trying to add that to my game."

Tatupu chuckles at the thought of Norton - his former position coach at USC - forcing current players to watch his highlights.

"I never know if people are going to be open to having to watch me, or being forced to watch someone else. But yeah, we've talked about it. Kind of gives us that link," Tatupu said. "That common link with all these guys is that I know how Norton coached them, and I know his expectations. I know I can get on them."

Tatupu not only lived up to but exceeded expectations throughout his career. In college he started 25 games in two seasons at USC and earned first team All-American honors following his senior season. As a Seahawk, he became the first player in franchise history to lead the team in tackles four straight seasons (2005-08).

As a coach there's little doubt he'll find a way to make his mark and employ a measure of patience he didn't think he possessed. 

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