People have a lot of opinions about athletes. That they're stuck up. They're selfish. They're ego-centric. And maybe some of those things are true. John Hardy-Tuliau, however, is none of the above.
To wit: I was waiting in line to get into the Stan Sheriff Center tonight about half an hour after the team tipped off against Air Force (more on that later) when a familiar face sauntered up next to me.
Truthfully as a fan, (or at least for me) I'm always acutely aware of not just the athletes around me, but how they are acting. Do I ask for a picture? Will he talk to me? What will I say? Will I embarrass myself? Are they in a good mood? (nothing hurts more than your fanhood getting punked by a grumpy superstar)
My experiences thus far have been honestly mixed. While I was at USC, I ran across my fair share of NFL bound prospects, ranging from indifferent (Reggie Bush) to bitter (Dwayne Jarrett) to downright obnoxiously douche-y (Steve Smith). In Hawaii though? For whatever reason everyone that I'd ever met in the past couldnt have been nicer. Chad. Timmy. Colt. Davone. Grice. All of these guys were gracious and pleasant and, most importantly, genuinely engaged. Now I can add Hardy-Tuliau to that list.
We chatted for a little while about the team and the upcoming year. He told me that he's going to be playing pretty much exclusively at safety this year (he bounced around between CB and Safety last year in part due to injury and in part due to generally poor DB play) which excited me very much. He was always a ball-hawk in the secondary but I thought that his technique and strengths as a player (tracking the ball while it's in the air) was better suited for free-ranging rather than sticking to just one guy (like Ne-Quan Phillips or Tony Grimes who are bulldogs, particularly in the slot). He also looked like he put on quite a bit of muscle. His weight is listed at 180 but I'd probably put him now significantly closer to 200 which is ideal.
He also expressed a strong belief in not just the team, but the coaching staff as well. This was really comforting for me to hear, since rumors towards the end of last season might have you believe that faith in Norm in the locker room had eroded severely towards the end of the year.
And while I'm acutely aware that football season doesn't begin in earnest until fall camp chatting with Hardy-Tuliau tonight really affirmed to me that its actually become a year-round sport. That is to say, even when it's not being played on the field, there's something always going on off of it. Is it almost time yet??