Oklahoma DT Laulu completes emotional draft journey with Colts

Oklahoma DT Laulu completes emotional draft journey with Colts

Apr. 28—INDIANAPOLIS — It took Jonah Laulu a number of further moments Saturday night to imagine his dream actually had come true.

When the Oklahoma defensive deal with answered the telephone name from Indianapolis Colts common supervisor Chris Ballard informing him he was the 234th total decide within the seventh spherical of the NFL Draft, Laulu first double-checked to make sure he wasn’t being pranked.

Ballard shortly re-assured Laulu the decision was actual and informed him to go forward and decline all of the incoming calls from suitors hoping to signal him as an undrafted free company.

Thus started a celebration some thought-about unlikely as lately as February when Laulu didn’t obtain an invite to the NFL Scouting Mix.

Like each different impediment in his approach all through his soccer journey, nonetheless, Laulu pushed it apart and stored marching towards his aim.

“Proper earlier than I transferred to Oklahoma (in 2022), I believe that is once I realized, OK, I may make soccer my profession,” Laulu stated. “And so, man, simply doing it for actual — I am nonetheless shaking. It is one thing you at all times dream about. Everyone at all times says I wish to go play within the NFL. … Being one of many guys that truly will get to do it’s loopy. (It is) simply very overwhelming proper now.”

Laulu’s soccer journey started as an outsized excessive schooler for whom the sport got here simply.

The 6-foot-5, 289-pounder discovered his work ethic from watching his mom work two jobs to handle chapter when was 15 years previous, and his expertise within the recreation first took him to Hawaii to start his school profession.

His redshirt freshman season was an eye-opening expertise as he discovered actual strategies and technique for the primary time. By Yr 2, Laulu was exhibiting speedy enchancment and starting to imagine he may climb into the very best ranges of the sport.

Then the Warriors underwent a training change, and Laulu’s progress was stunted.

After two seasons below the brand new teaching employees, he made a troublesome choice to enter the switch portal.

“I simply felt like I wasn’t getting higher as a defensive linemen,” Laulu stated. “And so I type of fought myself with it — getting into the portal or not. Ended up getting into the portal as a result of I needed to get higher teaching. I needed to be in a system that type of showcased my talents, the place I may play throughout.”

Laulu discovered his new house at Oklahoma, enjoying for one of many nation’s most revered defensive-minded head coaches in Brent Venables.

The times of watching YouTube movies to study new pass-rushing strikes and finding out tape of NFL stars like Maxx Crosby, Aaron Donald and Ed Oliver alone at house had been over.

Now Laulu was a part of a deep line of defense rotation and receiving the type of teaching that might push him into the following degree.

It nonetheless wasn’t easy crusing.

Laulu spent his first season getting “cooked” by vast receivers as a hybrid exterior linebacker within the Sooners’ 3-4 scheme. He shortly realized he wasn’t minimize out to hurry quarterbacks from the sting and moved inside as a defensive deal with.

The uncooked numbers do not soar off the web page. He made simply six begins at Oklahoma and totaled 31 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and a pair of.5 sacks.

However Laulu displayed athletic traits that might assist proceed his upward momentum, and his superlative efficiency throughout the Sooners’ Professional Day confirmed what scouts had been seeing on tape.

“I’ve actually excessive expectations for myself, and I am actually, actually laborious on myself — which is I believe an excellent and dangerous factor,” Laulu stated. “As a result of if I do not meet my expectations, I will be actually on myself and I will actually get in my head. And it type of motivates me to simply hold going, which helped me get to the place I’m.”

Laulu wasn’t interested by the eye he was producing from NFL choice makers. He was simply attempting to dwell as much as his self-imposed requirements.

As he rewatched clips of the occasion on YouTube and Oklahoma’s in-house app, he was struck by the scouts’ consideration to element and the way carefully they had been listening to his each transfer.

“I type of simply tried to dam out every thing else and simply deal with what was arising subsequent — whether or not it was broad soar, vertical, 40(-yard sprint), all that,” Laulu stated. “However afterwards, although, I used to be like, ‘OK, I suppose I did fairly first rate.'”

The Colts agreed.

Space scout Anthony Coughlin stored in contact earlier than, throughout and after the occasion. And Laulu was invited to Indanapolis for one of many staff’s top-30 visits.

He hit it off with defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and line of defense coach Charlie Partridge in particular person, sharing her private story of perseverance and self-motivation.

“I believed it was actually cool,” Laulu stated of the draft course of. “(Coughlan) was saying that they actually favored me, and it was simply loopy. I did not know they favored me this a lot.”

The story does not finish right here.

Laulu is becoming a member of one of many deepest place teams on the Colts’ roster, and he’ll should work as laborious as ever to make an impression as a rookie.

That is the place the instance his mom set all these years in the past comes again into the image.

Now that Laulu has made it into the entrance door with the NFL, he is trying to transfer in for an prolonged keep.

“I’ve at all times had that mindset of working laborious, placing my head down and simply going to work,” he stated. “And in order that acquired me to Hawaii. And that acquired me from Hawaii to Oklahoma and acquired me from Oklahoma to Indianapolis. So it is fairly loopy how life works.”

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