One of the greatest qualities of sports is that it has the capacity to gather together people from all walks of life, from all around the world, from different cultures and different experiences, and unite them under a common interest. They say that math is the universal language, but if there are runners-up, it would be love, and then sports, and music as well.
This gathering of differences under one shared commonality applies not only to those on the outside of the sport, but also to those who participate. Especially in a more international game such as soccer, you frequently see players from countries all across the globe sharing one jersey on the pitch.
American football remains more insular, even if there are some foreign-born successes—the Pittsburgh Steelers have a tackle right now in Chukwuma Okorafor who was born and raised in Africa, unfamiliar with the sport for much of his life. But even within that more confined space is a pretty vast diaspora.
And we see that most at this time of the year, the dead time between minicamp and training camp, when players have several weeks off, during which they combine down time and training, typically returning to their homes or off to a workout retreat.
For Tyson Alualu, entering his 10th season in the NFL, he has had a common destination every year at this time, returning to Honolulu, Hawaii, where he was born and raised. It’s not just an opportunity to get back to his roots, though. It’s also business.
Rob DeMello writes that he trains at Moanalua High School. “It just comes with having that experience of going through your first offseason and now I’m going into my tenth one, so, you gain a lot of knowledge about how to take care of your body”, he said. He also talked about sharing the experience with his family, particular his brother and his children, adding, “I love the grind”.
Alualu’s is just one story of many around the league at this time of year, of course. We also recently highlighted another defensive lineman, rookie Isaiah Buggs, who returned to his home before the break. Most players have similar ideas, but which takes them in many, many different directions all across the country.
All of whom, in some way or another, have gotten the opportunity to live out a dream of playing professionally. You don’t get here by accident. You do it through years—sometimes decades—of hard work and dedication to your craft. Which is why Alualu considers himself “blessed to be in this position”, not just on the field, but in life, and with the opportunity to give back to his community, the way so many players around the league—and thus around the country—do as well.
But come the end of July, they all gather again to head back to western Pennsylvania, the heart of football country, where they join together on the fields of Saint Vincent College. That is where the real work for the 2019 season—the grind—begins.