The Atlanta Falcons added 26 rookies to the roster this offseason, with 20 of them being undrafted free agents. Being an UDFA, the road to making the final roster is difficult, but not impossible as past Falcons’ players such as Ryan Schraeder, Brian Poole, Olamide Zaccheaus and Sharrod Neasman serve as proof. Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with fullback Mikey Daniel, offensive tackle Evin Ksiezarczyk, linebacker Jordan Williams and defensive end Austin Edwards with the goal to allow fans to get to know them better.
Today, we’ll be getting to know defensive tackle Sailosi Latu out of San Jose State. Listed at 6’3, 334 lbs, Latu brings tremendous size to the Falcons defensive line. From 2017 through 2019, the proud Tongan native played inside and outside on the Spartans’ three-man defensive front. In all 28 games in which he played, Latu started and was credited with 108 total tackles. In 2019, Latu had a career-best 54 tackles and 2.5 tackles for a loss.
I was able to speak with Sailosi Latu and ask him some questions about his background, his offseason, and making it to the NFL.
Growing up in Tonga, and eventually moving to the United States, how did you begin playing football?
In Tonga, I only learned by what I had heard and seen. We use to have NFL Street and we thought that is how football was played. But we moved here in 2010 and the first high school I went too, told me to play defensive lineman and just chase whomever had the ball. I wanted to run the ball because of rugby but they insisted on me playing defensive lineman. My first practice, they put me in practice squad against the varsity. The center hiked the ball to the quarterback and it might’ve been a play action, but I didn’t know at the time. The quarterback rolled outside the offensive line and I saw my chance and cleaned him up, haha. I got up and turned around, the whole varsity offense is running at me to fight, so I squared up and got ready, hahaha. Coach came yelling at me and cussing me out. In my head, I knew I messed up but didn’t know what I did wrong. He pulled me to side and said, “That is what I am talking about, just not our quarterback.” Hahah. But that is how I got started.
How would you summarize your time at San Jose State? Favorite memory?
I loved every second I spent at San Jose State. Coach Brennan and his staff emphasize family and brotherhood in San Jose State, and to hear and see the Falcons coaches and staff emphasize that is really unique to go to two programs that emphasize it. Back to back. My favorite memory in San Jose State would be the time I spent with the defensive line and especially Coach Joe Seumalo. And also when we beat Fresno State last year for the Valley trophy.
How has COVID-19 impacted your offseason and preparing for your NFL career?
The impact is crazy. From last year after the season, I didn’t expect that I would make it to the NFL as a rookie and have to deal with a pandemic. Can’t get into the gym. But I just have to figure out a way to stay ready. From field work to band workout and just whatever I can do.
Did you receive any other offers; what made you decide to sign with the Falcons?
Not to my knowledge. The Falcons were the first, and I didn’t hesitate. Talking to Coach Jess Simpson was the main reason I signed with them. I did some research about him and the programs and everything was good. Coach Simpson is a character, in a good way. He was straight forward but seems to care and have the best intentions for me. He mentioned the brotherhood and what that meant especially with head coach DQ and I said, this is a program that will help me and build me.
When did you personally know that you could play at the next level, in the NFL?
I didn’t know if I had what it takes to get to the NFL. With the statistic of 1.5-2% of college students to make it to the NFL, I knew that there is a chance, so I tried everything for that chance. My dad, Koini, always said that if there is a chance, go for it. I say it was worth the shot. But I never knew that I, personally would have the chance. My agent, Evan Brennan (not related to my SJSU head coach. Hahahaha.) Kept it real with me and gave me the numbers that he thinks was possible for me to make it. So all I have to do was train and hit those numbers so I can be in those percentage. Whether it was drafted or signee.
Have you discussed what your role would be with the Falcons’ staff?
I mean, we talked about playing defensive tackle and mainly nose tackle. So I just have to buckle in and learn everything. But if they want me to hype up the sideline, I will do it. If they want me to write notes for Allen Bailey, Tyeler Davison and the rest, I will do it. I am learning from two great coach (Jess Simpson and Tosh Lupoi) and the defensive line they have are some dawgs. I am watching Tyeler Davison’s film. He the main one I am watching. He knows his assignments and he is committed to being excellent at doing his job. That is what I need to do. And Tyeler is that mentor that will help me get there.
How familiar were you with the Falcons franchise prior to signing?
I wasn’t really familiar with the Falcons before. I would watch their defense from time to time but never really got involved. I was always a Raiders fan. But after the sign, Raiders gotta take the back seat now cause I am investing everything in the brotherhood.
Is there any certain players you model your game after? Favorite NFL player(s)?
I used to watch Haloti Ngata a lot. How he played and all. I followed the Ravens when they went to the Super Bowl because of Haloti. I tried to play like him but that dude is just greatness. Now I have Tyeler to look too, Grady and AB. Watching their film just gives me that edge of I have to be better than now. I must be better than before.
What do you want Falcons fans to know about you as a person?
I love my family. They are the reason that I made it here. My siblings helped me a lot and my parents did their best for me to be in this position. I am a proud Tongan always will be. A happy guy. Hahahah. But most of all, I am a grandma’s boy. Hahahaha.
Pro Day 2020 . Let the fun begin pic.twitter.com/eive688jgp— Sailosi Latu (@LatuSailosi) April 23, 2020
If you couldn’t tell from his comments above, Sailosi Latu brings the right type of attitude to a Falcons defense which hasn’t struck fear into opposing teams in quite some time. He compared his game to Haloti Ngata and Tyeler Davison, and those are good models for Latu to mold his career after. Like Ngata and Davison, Latu won’t ever lead the team in sacks, but he’s a massive force in the middle who can eat up runs.
Latu’s path to making the roster will be a tough one, as the defensive line is crowded with nearly 16 players vying for position. Like many UDFA’s, it’s going to take a great camp performance to convince the coaching staff to keep them on the roster. With that being said, I wouldn’t bet against Latu as he definitely has the right mindset to perform at the next level.