After a long and arduous journey, former Mustangs left tackle Amini Silatolu is expected to be selected in one of the first three rounds of the NFL draft, which began Thursday.
Silatolu attended Tracy’s West High School and originally played defensive line for head coach Steve Lopez.
He then decided to attend Delta College to complete his associates degree as he was not heavily recruited as a defensive lineman coming out of high school.
Upon arriving at Delta in 2007, Silatolu decided it was time to step across the line of scrimmage and try his luck on the offensive line, where his mixture of strength and surprisingly nimble feet would land him at left tackle.
The position change crossed Salitolu’s path with Mustang offensive line coach Bill McQuery, which was the beginning of his ascent from obscure prep defensive lineman to a potential high draft pick in the NFL.
“He was my first real offensive lineman. ‘Coach Mac’ taught me what takes to play the position and is my foundation for what I’m doing right now,” said Silatolu of his former coach.
Silatolu enjoyed a decorated career as a Mustang, being named a 2008 first team All-American by the California Community College Coaches’ Association, and the Big 8 Conference top offensive lineman for the same year.
His success drew the attention of numerous Division I programs, and Silatolu eventually signed for the University of Nevada, Reno.
This is where the path to the NFL took an unexpected turn, as Silatolu’s failure to qualify academically ultimately prevented him from attending the school.
With his two-year junior College eligibility over and the Nevada offer falling through, Silatolu could not play in 2009, but did not want to take another year off from playing football and decided to sign with Division II Midwestern State in Wichita Falls, Texas.
“I’ve never taken that much time off from playing and didn’t want to miss any more time. Playing football is what I know and I wanted to keep doing it,” he said.
Even though he was playing at a smaller program, Silatolu began drawing the attention of pro scouts in 2010, who had originally visited his campus to get a closer look at then starting quarterback Zack Eskridge.
Starting at left tackle his junior year, Silatolu was named the Lonestar Conference co-offensive lineman of the year and helped pave the way for the 16th ranked rushing attack in all of Division II football.
In his senior season, Silatolu reached greater heights, as he was named a consensus Division II first team All-American, was once again named the conference offensive lineman of the year and was part of a unit that led the division in total offense.
By the time his collegiate career had come to a close, Silatolu had become a highly touted NFL offensive line prospect, as was evident by the fact he became the first player from his school to be invited to the Senior Bowl, which is the most prestigious of the all-star games in college football.
A hamstring injury prevented Silatolu from playing in the game which can help players from smaller schools raise their draft stock, as it gives them a chance to show NFL teams that they can compete with players from higher level programs.
Silatolu was able to attend the scouting combine, an event in which the top draft prospects work out for NFL scouts, coaches and general managers.
he met individually with 27 teams at the combine, and later was invited to private workouts with 11, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens and St. Louis Rams.
At one point in the weeks leading up to the draft, Silatolu found himself staring down the barrel of having to visit eight cities in seven days.
“I don’t mind all the traveling and jet lags and all that stuff. I’m just enjoying the process and everything that’s going on. When I was in St. Louis I got to meet Trent Richardson and LaMichael James so it was kinda cool to get to meet those guys and talk to them,” said Salitolu of one of his team visits.