Trenches-Ready Tu’iklolavatu In Round 7

April 29th, 2017

The Bucs’ final pick of 2017

You know Joe has a soft spot for drafting a quality football player who thrived playing at 6-1, 350 pounds last season.

Throw in that the guy lived in his car for a while — at that size — and, well, Joe is damn impressed.

Joe’s talking about new Bucs rookie seventh-round pick Stevie Tu’iklolavatu, a University of Southern California defensive tackle. He’s slimmed down now to 330.

This spring, USC head coach Clay Helton raved about him on SiriusXM NFL Radio for being a plug-and-play NFL prospect. Tu’iklolavatu is a unique story, a married guy who turns 26 this summer. His football career was delayed by charitable missions.

Regarding living in a car, Tu’iklolavatu couldn’t get housing at USC until his transfer from Utah was official. The LA Times wrote a neat story on it. Here’s an excerpt:

They settled into a routine. At dawn, they’d work out in the sand. Then Kalo would drop him off at USC while she hunted for a job. At around 5 p.m., she’d pick him up.

Kalo outfitted the car with shower curtains to keep out the sun. They showered at the beach. They found a favorite spot atop a parking garage in Huntington Beach, where they could wake early to view the sun rise over the Santa Ana foothills and bathe in the sprawl of Orange County.

On weekends, they’d work out early, then spend the rest of the day swimming or exploring. “We were basically all around the coast,” Kalo said. “We were little hippies.”

Toward the end of the day, they’d buy meat from a Dollar Tree and barbecue on the beach, using a grill Tu’ikolovatu had rigged from an aluminum-foil pan, pieces of wood and lighter fluid.

Coach Helton confidently says Tu’ikolovatu’s game is as mature as his age. He was the pulse of the USC defense, Helton said, and he’s NFL-ready because of his seasoning and savvy, in addition to his strength. Tu’ikolovatu’s uncle, Sione Pouha, played seven years at defensive tackle with the New York Jets.

Tu’ikolovatu is considered a powerful NFL-caliber run stuffer with surprising agility and the necessary strength. He was widely projected as a late third-day draft pick.

The Bucs could use a guy like Tu’ikolovatu to fill the loss of Akeem Spence, and to help get the team younger on the interior of their D-line. Newcomer Chris Baker, Gerald McCoy and Clinton McDonald have 23 seasons of combined wear on them.

Besides, who wouldn’t want a Tu’ikolovatu jersey?

60 Responses to “Trenches-Ready Tu’iklolavatu In Round 7”

  1. Jason Says:

    Stoked we got this cat!

  2. Joeypoppems Says:

    I like the pick. Especially if we plan on playing more 34 fronts

  3. Eric Says:

    I like the pick. Hard to find 350 ponders who can move.

  4. Pat Says:

    This is one of my favorite pics so far by the Bucs I am really cheering for this guy. Maybe Jason Licht finally gets a guy to contribute from the seventh round draft position.

  5. SteveK Says:

    Great pick!

    Big man in the middle.

    Mike Smith has some more pieces to work with, and that excites me.

    Any word on what we gave up?

  6. Doctor Stroud Says:

    Let’s hear it for the trenches!

  7. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    Not sure how I feel on this one.

  8. lvbuc Says:

    Looks like with LSU LB McNichols and Stevie we might be playing a lot more 3-4 this year. Noah Spence can play DE or OLB

  9. Joeypoppems Says:

    On paper it seems like a solid draft. We got an absolute stud TE, potential starting FS, a future #2 WR, potential starting SAM backer, and depth at RB and DT. I like it.

  10. BucfaninMi Says:

    Nice pick, ready to go!

  11. Trubucfan22 Says:

    Sounds like a great value pick for a 7th rounder! A guy who will likely make the team! Great story, great pick, Go Bucs.

  12. LUVMYBUCS Says:

    Great back story
    Pulling for this kid now.

    Go Bucs!

  13. James Walker Says:

    He lived in his car?

  14. CarolinaBucFan Says:

    Pat, he sure can get undrafted guys though lol. Let’s just skip the 7th and go straight to the Brate’s and Humphries’.
    I like having another big ole boy in the middle. Kinda makes you reminisce about Roy Miller

  15. Trubucfan22 Says:

    First DT drafted by Licht, better late than never!

  16. LUVMYBUCS Says:

    Pick Up some solid UDFA’s – and we’re ready for camp

  17. Mike Johnson (the other one) Says:

    I know some folks don’t like some of the picks, but… I feel like everyone we drafted will be a starter, I really do. Even Beckworth, who tore his ACL in November, could play this year (I see him as a 1st and 2nd down guy who comes off the field for nickle defense, replaced by new S Evans).

  18. Ndog Says:

    It really looks like we will see a lot more 34 and LVD could be relied upon to be our edge pressure.

  19. Conte Piscateli Says:

    I love it. I wanted big Stevie T. Finally, we get a man sized DT to control the line of scrimmage

  20. Harold From Atlanta Says:

    I love our draft, depth picks are not always sexy but pay huge dividends over the course of the season!

    Joe thanks for stopping by yesterday at Brocato’s, good times!

  21. buccfan305 Says:

    I think we have GMC’s replacement…..lmao

  22. Lunchbox Says:

    Love this pick, seems like great value. Some of these picks make it seem to me like we could definitely be running more 3-4 looks going forward. Love this guys story. He sounds like someone who won’t take his opportunity for granted.

  23. jwash Says:

    I hate drafting Dlineman with no pass rush ability….but I like his story

  24. TouchDownTampaBay Says:

    LOL Bonzai he is a 7th rounder! Any guy taken in the 7th round is going to have question marks. I have no reservations or positive vibes regarding this pick. If he makes it past training camp that will be a plus as none of Licht’s previous 7th rounders have made the final rosters. Probably just a feel good story that will fizzle in early September. I hope I am wrong but either way I am not going to fret over the quality of a guy taken this late.

  25. Conte Piscateli Says:


    You’re right he won’t touch many QBs in his career but he will occupy at least 2 linemen every play, leading to more 1 on 1 and free rushers around him.

  26. CarolinaBucFan Says:

    What’s the over/under that his story will be a big part of Hard Knocks?

  27. Bobby A Says:

    I’m with you, Joeypoppems. They aren’t the picks I would have made, but I think the draft is solid. With the way this roster has been built over the past 3 drafts, all the negativity toward Jason Licht kills me. Like my daddy always said, “some people would ***** (complain) if they were hung with a new rope”.

  28. bucNation Says:

    3-4 front hints continue..

  29. Dave Says:

    Let’s see if he pans out over the next 2 years.

  30. LUVMYBUCS Says:

    Congrats 2 Jason & the entire scouting staff!

    Here’s to another one in the books

  31. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    TouchDownTampaBay Says
    “LOL Bonzai he is a 7th rounder! “A

    Not saying I don’t like the pick, just undecided at present. To be fair, I am distracted by my son’s 21st b-day party

  32. Bucs Guy Says:

    Love the story and maturity. Not everyone has the discipline to do something like that for a month — especially with their wife.

    I’m rooting for him!!!

  33. LUVMYBUCS Says:

    Joe anyway we get a post – to pay homage to scouting staff?
    I Can’t imagine how many hours – they put into evaluating this crop.

  34. Gencoimports Says:

    We gave up this years and next year’s 7th round picks to move up to get him. Def. worth the risk. Like the pick.

  35. Brandon Says:

    Great, looks like the Bucs phoned in the draft after selecting Godwin for the most part.

    Evans is perhaps the worst tackling safety I’ve ever seen. He’s pretty good against the pass, very intelligent and instinctive as well as being athletic enough to make plays…. tackling…. he throws himself at the ball carrier’s feet constantly. H won’t even consider putting a shoulder or hat on another player unless that player’s back is to him, otherwise he dives at his feet or hops on his back and takes a ride. The thought of him trying to tackle McCaffrey and Samuel, Julio Jones and Freeman, any Saint… makes me nauseous. You guys thought Tandy whiffing on Austin was bad? Evans did that more than four times against both Tennessee and UCLA this past year.

    Beckwith? Trading up for a two down LB coming off an ACL injury? The guy doesn’t cover, he didn’t make splash plays. Yeah, he made tackles but was limited athletically BEFORE he tore up his knee.

    And now this DT? 26 year old rookie…. fattest player at the Combine at 31.4% bodyfat and heaviest DT at the Combine… probably the slowest too. He is what he is at 26. Don’t think this is a big deal? Think again. Danny Shelton (27), Peria Jeria (25), Gaines Adams (24), and numerous other linemen have learned that being an overaged and dominant collegiate player is absolutely not an indicator of success in the NFL. As a matter of fact, it almost never happens.

    So basically, we completely wasted the second 3rd round pick and the 7th rounder. Two guys that won’t even make the game day roster and then there’s Evans… yeah, he’ll make the team, he might even play, but until/unless he actually shows that he can tackle better than my nearly 70 year old mother, he has no business being on an NFL field. Licht seems to be getting worse with his drafting. Three players that at first glance look to possibly make the team and make it better, three others that don’t have a chance.

  36. Couch Fan Says:

    Wow you are entitled to your opinion but my opinion is its insane to declare wasted picks before the draft has even completed. I am sure you have put in a little bit of time studying these guys to have an opinion like that but I am also sure that the time you invested in studying these guys isnt even close to the months, possibly years the Bucs staff have been studying them. Sheesh, give them a chance. History isnt on their side but anything and everything is possible.

  37. '74 Bucs fan Says:

    Bucs did well IMO. I saw this guy’s story on TV recently – seems like a great young man and very hard worker. Run stuffer to go along with our FA DT, new LB and new S. This screams that Mike Smith was tired of getting run on and wanted to beef up our D. Well done!

  38. '74 Bucs fan Says:

    Brandon – please check with your physician about Prozac – it’s an anti-depression medication.

  39. Buccfan37 Says:

    Buys meat from the Dollar Tree, sounds familiar. Chinese chicken, farm raised fish, you call that beef. Where’s the beef?

  40. NJBucsFan Says:

    Big boy. Didn’t realize he’s going to be 26 when the season starts though

  41. Frank Pillow Says:

    Great pick up in the 7th. Fantastic story to this kid too. He’s the type that has earned every opportunity. A very solid draft Mr Licht! Well done

  42. rayjay1122 Says:

    ATTENTION!!! To Brandon and the rest of the whiners, nobody can know right know who will be a boom or a bust. Take your analysis, wipe your buts with it and flush. I am going to paste a snippet of pre-draft analysis of a current Buccaneer.

    “Plays upright and needs to improve his play strength in general. Field awareness is severely lacking on tape. Struggles to work outside framework of his initial play responsibility, losing sight of the ball. Allowed big plays against Auburn and Wisconsin because of these issues. Takes false steps and plays with too much wasted motion, pumping arms and chopping feet as he moves forward. Gets caught overrunning his run fit and gets washed down too easily. Needs to improve breaking down and getting feet set before attempting to strike and tackle.”

    Any guesses who this is about?

    Answer: Kwon Alexander. How much of the above does he display week in and week out?

    I rest my case.

  43. Stpetebucsfan Says:

    Well 7th rounders are gettting dangerously close to camp meat. One of the great things about this guy though is his maturity….we’ll find out this year if he can play in the NFL because he’s not a project. Either he can do it or he can’t.

  44. JabooBuc Says:

    Brandon- so I guess you know more than most. Evans was co Defensive MVP at A&M and was considered a 2nd round talent. Beckwith is a beast with ability to play middle or SAM (he’s an athlete). He appears that Smith wants his squad to be able to interchange between a 4-3 and 3-4. To do this you need a LB like Beckwith and a space eater NT. Looks like he has done that.

    I think it’s been an excellent draft where I can see at least 4 of the 6 drafted starting.

  45. Stpetebucsfan Says:


    I hope you’re right because your pronouncement is the metric that I value.

    at least 4 of the 6 drafted starting.

    That would be impressive for sure because that’s the true test of the draft. How much do they contribute and how long do we have to wait?

  46. JabooBuc Says:

    Connection at LSU raves about Beckwith. Said he brings it at all times and has a good attitude. I can see him being a SAM/MLB that frees Kwon or David up to put more pressure on opposing passers.

    I like Evans as an athlete and think he will eventually start at Safety but will begin as quality depth and special teams contributor. He has some things to work on but I like his ability and tenacity.

    Godwin will contribute either in the slot or depth at WR and special teams immediately. He should evolve into our starting #2 WR.

  47. JabooBuc Says:

    Sorry, hit submit too soon by accident.

    Howard is a no brainer instant starter. Instant game changer.

  48. Bob in valrico Says:

    Draft is a crapshoot at any pick , this 7 th round pick fills a need for a runstuffer and if you read about his background, its a low risk high reward gamble.
    as for beckwith he may go inside on third down leaving Kwan to cover or blitz .

  49. JabooBuc Says:


  50. Casual Observer Says:

    I think it is an excellent draft. My only concern was not picking up an edge rusher. But maybe someone will emerge from the current crew. Lots of plusses here. A fine looking roster on paper. Which is all anyone has at this point. Looking to the practices and the season.

  51. DR FEELGOOD Says:

    I just don’t get the J. Evans hate!! Co defensive MVP with the #1 pick in the draft? His own team couldn’t differentiate his leadership and skills from Myles Garrett, but a lot of you say he sucks and is a waste of a pick. Laughable!! I love Mayock, and he’s probably right about missed tackles, but he’s coming to a team with an excellent defensive coordinator who will coach him up to be a consistent stud! How many of you one year ago would’ve said “we should keep MacDougald and Tandy is a stud”? This coaching staff will make him a bigger stud than he already is. You know ELSE missed a lot of tackles? Bradley MacDougald!!! Yet, you cry that he’s gone. Please show me the highlight tapes that show MacDougald’s deadly hits that compare to J. Evans.

  52. Buc this Says:

    This pick I love ! You know A guy who lived in his car is gonna come in hungry (no pun intended) and work his ass off. He will also be more appreciative than a lot of the diva OBJ types . Can’t wait to see this guy succeed !

  53. Defense Rules Says:

    Interesting pick. Bucs have a guy on the roster (Sealver Siliga) who goes 6’2″ & 345 lbs and is 27 yrs old with 5 yrs NFL experience. Sounds an awful lot like Stevie Tu’iklolavatu who goes 6’1″ & 330 lbs (now) and is 26 yrs old. Odds are only one will make the final 53. It’ll be interesting to see which one.

  54. Defense Rules Says:

    And JabooBuc, beyond Howard it looks like Bucs are building for the future with these selections. Barring injuries to our starters, I’d be surprised to see anyone besides OJ get any significant playing time this year. ‘Course surprises happen all the time in the NFL so you never know.

  55. Stpetebucsfan Says:

    Dr Feelgood

    I do not hate Evans at all. For me it was more of a positional thing. I just valued an edge rusher a DE more than a safety. We could have had DeMarcus Walker who is as good a DE as Evans is a safety. They’re both good players but 16 freaking sacks got my attention.

    But it’s Dirk and Smitty’s team and I’m sure Smitty knows what he needs more than I do. If they want a safety more than a successful DE I’m going to assume they know what they’re doing.

  56. DR FEELGOOD Says:

    @StPeteBucsFan I very much respect your opinion and usually agree with you, but when I don’t, I can see your rationale because it comes from an educated perspective. My comment was triggered by the diatribe by Brandon, not you at all!! To say he’s the “worst tackling safety I’ve ever seen” brought out my ire, because these haters keep grabbing a negative comment by an evaluator and acting like experts. The guy, if I’m not mistaken, led the SEC in picks last year and (again) was co-captain with the #1 pick in the draft!! If he sucks, then I’ll own my comments, unlike others who throw crap against the wall and only emerge when they were right. For example, I thought Vitale was a great pick last year because of the fullback importance in a Koetter offense. Go Bucs!!

  57. Jim Says:

    Better Tu’iklolavatu than a woman-beater, right? Hope this kid makes the cut, really do…

  58. Mike Johnson Says:

    Susea got the fire and pedigeed. Good Luck to him. him..making the team!!

  59. Jameisbabymomma Says:

    I love pretending to be a GM too, but my ego isn’t big enough to think I know more than actual scouts and football coaches. Some of you armchair GMs crack me up.

    Tackling issues are scary, especially for the safety who will be asked to play single deep. The good news is it’s all micro positioning and learning that those arms he possess can wrap around another guy without making him gay. Fix those two things and we will be raving about his range and speed sooner rather than later. The tackling will improve, especially with big bodies in front of him (like our new LB and DT).

    The 7th round pick was solid, as was the LB choice. GMC can play 3-4 end with gholston on the other side. Beckwith and Kwon inside, Spence and David on the outside. David, Kwon, and Spence will be your speed rushers while GMC operates like a poor man’s JJ Watt. All of a sudden the Bucs can run 4-3 or 3-4 fronts after this draft. We also got a DT in FA who can play 3-4 de or 3-technique DT.

    Godwin was a great choice. It was so smart not to overlook WR after drafting the new and innocent OJ. There was zero depth after Evans and Jackson, and Godwin can fill in for either of them. He will also replace hump in the red zone with Evans or Jackson moving to the slot. If I were Jameis, give me Evans in the slot and OJ Howard inline and I’m one happy mother****er in the red zone. He now has 4 very skilled red zone threats over 6ft tall — Evans, Howard, Godwin, and Brate (who is mad dangerous in the end zone).

    One last note, I love Cam Brate and admire his route running savvy. He’s a fierce competitor and reliable hands. He has a great knack for finding soft spots in zones and positioning his body well again man coverage. Imo, Brate should replace Humph working the slot and letting Godwin get on the outside with some motions. All I see are options! Licht has built a hell of an offense with pieces to create mismatches against all types of defenses.

    Damn, I really wish I could play with this offense.

    Lastly, if there is one pick that worries me it’s the selection of a running back who has fumble issues. Turnovers kill. Though I imagine using him as a third down option.

  60. garroman Says:

    Anyone remember nose tackle Dave Pear #76. He was a monster at times…Kinda reminds me of him.