For so long, the NFL seemed so far away for D.J. Tialavea.
On Saturday, it arrived. And even the former Utah State tight end felt a little taken aback when the phone calls were pouring in.
"It's crazy that it came so fast," he said. "I wasn't really worried though. I knew I was getting an opportunity, so I'd just rather wait patiently."
He didn't have to wait all that long. Minutes after the draft, the 6-foot-4, 260-pound tight end agreed to terms with the Jacksonville Jaguars, fulfilling a long-time goal he and his family have shared since he first took up football at West Jordan High.
He was with family on Saturday, talking to teams and his agent as the dominos began to fall. He nearly agreed to a deal with the Dallas Cowboys, but in the end, he decided Florida was the place to be.
Tialavea will try to join former Aggies Michael Smith and Will Davis as players who have caught on with Sunshine State franchises. Jacksonville in particular has a lot of new pieces, starting with first-round pick quarterback Blake Bortles, so he hopes he can bond quickly.
"It's not just myself, but all the rookies have a chance to go in, surprise the organization and make a positive statement," he said. "I'm excited to let people know who I am. I'm going to go in there and bring the right attitude."
Beyond monitoring his own situation, Tialavea kept an eye out on other Aggies who are trying to make the NFL. He was pleased to see Maurice Alexander and Nevin Lawson get drafted to the Rams and the Lions, respectively, and then even happier to hear that seven other former teammates will get a chance as undrafted free agents or attend NFL mini-camps.
For a player who committed to the Aggies when they were still rebuilding under Gary Andersen, the change over the years has been monumental.
"I'm happy for the success," he said. "I'm glad they can enjoy the ride with me."
Since a long-form profile ran in the Tribune last week, Tialavea said a number of people have been in contact with him and his family, wishing him luck in his bid to make an NFL roster this fall. It gives him more motivation to work his way into the Jacksonville system and learn the offense, he said.
But it also has gotten him thinking about spending some time with his family. Looking at the Jaguars' offseason calendar, he knows it will be tricky to get away with his mother and two sisters for a while. But he'll figure something out.
"I'll have to be in Florida until July, but if I can work something out, I'll make sure I plan something," he said. "We'll get them out of the house and out of our element. We'll go somewhere."
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