Alphonzo Tuputala has been terrorizing offenses throughout the Pac-12 this year. But to many here in King County, we are all too familiar with Mr. Tuputala’s game and how good of a football player he is.
Tuputala was a standout player at Federal Way High School and received an offer to play at University of Washington, a team he grew up watching.
“UW was my biggest school offer. Once I got them, I was happy and grateful,” Tuputala said.
As a young kid, he watched family play at the stadium on Montlake. Tuputala’s cousin Danny Shelton is a Husky legend who played seven seasons in the NFL and was a first round pick back in 2015.
This season has been a breakout year statistically for Alphonzo Tuputala. He has played all 11 games, topping his 2021 career high of five. In these 11 games, Tuputala is second on the Huskies with 57 tackles, fifth in sacks (3) and tied for third in tackles for loss. His previous three seasons, his total tackles add up to 13.
In the classroom, Tuputala is a stand-out student. He has been recognized with the Pac-12 Academic Honor Roll, having higher than a 3.3 GPA in their classes. Being a student first is something that he is proud of: “People forget that we are students first. Football is great, but academics is really what is going to set us up for life after football because football is not forever.”
Tuputala enjoys the little things about being a student like walking around campus.
“People take stuff like walking to campus for granted. And that is part of the college experience. I don’t want to look back like ‘Wow I was just sitting on my computer for all my classes.’ So any time I am on campus or go to class, I say hi to people. I’m enjoying the experience,” Tuputala said.
As an athlete from Federal Way, Tuputala takes tremendous pride in his hometown.
“Federal Way has been everything that I learned and everything that I went through, from being a toddler to high school. That’s home. I take pride in representing the 253,” Tuputala said. He said it is a blessing to only be 30 minutes away from home, when he can see family often.
When it comes to football, Tuputala’s first memory of playing at Montlake was special. In his first ever game, he recorded an assisted tackle that was a safety: “I remember they threw this little sweep and me and my buddy got a tackle in the end zone for a safety. For my first play?!! It was unreal at first.”
There have also been three different head coaches in Tuputala’s time at UW, with each presenting their own unique styles and cultures. Tuputala was recruited by Chris Petersen, who has been the best coach UW has had since 1992. The next coach was Husky defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake.
“Petersen to Lake was an interesting time … it was just different. I learned from that coaching staff,” he said. “I always take pieces from anyone who is trying to teach me.”
Now with his third head coach, Kalen DeBoer, Tuputala said: “They impacted my game in a positive way. It boosted me up, They pushed me to go harder … they’re doing great, all the coaches are great guys.”
Alphonzo Tuputala isn’t the only athlete from Federal Way competing at a high level in athletics. There are countless players from Federal Way, Kent, Auburn representing the area including the likes of Jaden McDaniels and Jalen McDaniels of FWHS (NBA Minnesota Timberwolves, Charlotte Hornets), Reece McGuire of Kentwood (Boston Red Sox), Joshua Mears of FWHS (San Diego Padres), Nick Tanielu of FWHS (Texas Rangers), Malik Agbo of Todd Beamer HS (University of Texas football), and Jaden Robinson of Lakota Middle School and Auburn Riverside HS (Oregon State Football).
“Whenever you see people putting on for Fed, that’s all you can ask for. There is a pride to it,” Tuputala said. “I am just happy for everyone, because I know what it feels like to represent everyone back home.”
For Tuputala’s future, he is focused on the present: “I am just trying to focus on the season and focus on the here and now … Getting my mind right and constantly staying grateful, and having my priorities straight.”