Huskies' Ta'amu hungry for success

UW FOOTBALL: Self-control helps defensive tackle lose 45 pounds, gain stamina

April 13, 2011 

Pizza, pasta, lasagna … oh, how Alameda Ta'amu misses those old friends.

But rice – life has been so different without heaping plates filled with chicken and rice, pork chops and rice. Rice and more rice.

Ta’amu’s life is about other gratification these days, such as discipline, self-respect, team leadership and massive athletic potential.

He’s earned it all through sacrifice.

Through impressive self-control and strength of will, the senior defensive tackle for the University of Washington has pulled off a reducing act that would shame Jenny Craig, Atkins and even Subway’s Jared.

Now down to a scant 330 pounds – from a high of 375 – Ta’amu could turn into one of the Pacific-10 Conference’s dominant defensive tackles as a senior.

He certainly showed it during Tuesday’s spring practice at Husky Stadium.

“I thought this was far and away Alameda’s best practice,” coach Steve Sarkisian said. “He was really disruptive. He hurt us in the run game, and then what he’s able to do in the passing game is collapse the pocket where the quarterback has a really difficult time stepping up.”

After practice, Ta’amu came off the field grinning, which displayed a mouthguard bearing the inscription “Big Daddy.”

When told he’s not nearly the big daddy that he used to be, Ta’amu corrects: “I used to be Fat Daddy.”

He said that, at 375, he used to tire after three plays and didn’t have the energy to consistently go hard in games and practices.

He was all-world at the table, though.

“I ate a lot … didn’t care what,” he said, appearing to drool slightly when he went through a list of his favorites. “I loved pizza, any Italian food, and rice, that was my favorite. But I don’t eat much carbs now. I’ve cut way down on rice.”

Ta’amu didn’t need a “Biggest Loser” competition to spur his effort.

“I was tired of being tired out here,” he said. “Always feeling like I was dying, feeling like I couldn’t get through the next day. The coaches were on my butt all the time; they always told me, Alameda, you lose some weight, you can do something special.”

And?

“They were right, I feel much better.”

If anybody had questions about the potential of the Rainier Beach High School graduate, his performance in the Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska was a stunning display.

He had a 10-yard sack and a 14-yard fumble return, and he was instrumental in holding Nebraska to an average of 2.2 yards per carry.

“It was revenge, basically,” he said. “They embarrassed me (in the loss against them); they ran for a lot of yards up my gap. I took that personal. I didn’t want that to happen again.”

Middle linebacker Cort Dennison had a good view of Ta’amu’s effort in that game.

“He can entirely dominate a game,” Dennison said. “You look at the Holiday Bowl; there was one play when he went through four people, and he knocked them all on the ground. If ’Meda wants to, he can single-handedly dominate a game.”

Dennison said the leaner-meaner Ta’amu is so much quicker that he’s almost impossible to double-team. “And as strong as he is, there’s not much you can do against him with just one guy blocking him.”

Part of Ta’amu’s motivation has been an increased awareness of how important he is to his team.

“Having these young cats looking up to me … I want them to look at me as a leader, not some guy who didn’t care,” he said.

EXTRA POINTS

Day 7 of 15 spring practices started in sunny and calm weather. The day was dominated by the defense. … Two plays stood out. Dennison stripped the ball from back Chris Polk, and it was recovered and returned by safety Will Shamburger. An even better individual play was a Desmond Trufant interception of a deep Keith Price pass. Trufant closed on receiver Kevin Smith, speared the ball in the air, pulled it in and returned it up the sideline for a nice gain. … Left tackle Senio Kalemete was on the sidelines in a boot again, recovering from a plantar fascia injury. … Running back Jessie Callier went to the sideline with what Sarkisian called a minor ankle injury.

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