Molding a Pro Athlete

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Joined: 08/11/2016

Don may have been known as a generous man, but he also knew how to be an assertive, candid father — especially when it came to athletics. [url=]Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jerseys[/url]

A bruising yet agile 300-pounder during his heyday, the Oceanside, Calif., native was a three-sport athlete in high school and played college football at University of Utah.

Naturally, he passed his love of sports down to his son.

At a young age, DJ excelled at wrestling, baseball and basketball. It wasn’t until his sophomore year of high school that he picked up football. Despite his inexperience, he contributed at defensive end, offensive line and tight end, thanks in large part to his size and fortitude.

DJ’s height — he now stands at 6-foot-4 — was God-given. His fortitude, however, was not. That was built from years of Don pushing and chiding him, sometimes at loud volumes: If DJ made a mistake during a game, Don’s voice would often rise above the cacophony of spectator noises, and harsh criticisms would find his son’s ear.

While no kid enjoys being scolded, DJ knew Don meant well. This was obvious to DJ’s coach, Mike Morgan, following West Jordan’s second game of the 2008 season.

Down 37-34 in overtime, DJ caught a touchdown pass on 4th-and-11 to give WJHS a thrilling win over Mountain Valley. His teammates tried to swarm him in celebration, but DJ eluded them by running off the field so he could present the ball to his father, who, after wrapping his arms around the pigskin, had tears streaming down his face.

"DJ wanted nothing more than to please his dad," Morgan said.

‘You’ll Always Be in My Heart’ [url=]Seattle Seahawks Jerseys[/url]

DJ’s success in high school earned him a football scholarship at Utah State. At tight end he established himself as a technically sound, reliable blocker; he contributed in the passing game, as well, racking up 30 catches for 198 yards in 40 games. [url=]Wholesale Seattle Seahawks Jerseys[/url]

Although his senior year was cut short due to a fractured foot, DJ knew he had a chance to play at the next level. But NFL dreams took a backseat a month into his recovery. On Nov. 3, 2013, his father visited a hospital for the last time.

A day later, Don suddenly felt more tired than usual. He passed away shortly thereafter. He was 54 — more than two decades older than he was supposed to live.

The funeral was well-attended. Among those who showed up were roughly 40 Utah State Aggies, who watched their teammate give a stirring tribute.

"You'll always be in my heart," DJ said at the podium of West Jordan’s LDS chapel, "until we meet in heaven again."

DJ lost his dad, his hero, just before his pro career was supposed to begin. It took its toll, and matters didn’t get easier when DJ went undrafted in 2014. Nevertheless, he was comforted by the encouraging words his father used to always tell him: “Son, they might not be calling you now, but just be ready when they call your number. They will call your number one day. You be ready.”

DJ was ready when the Falcons invited him to training camp last July and eventually added him to their practice squad. He’s impressed coach Dan Quinn and has a realistic chance to make Atlanta’s 53-man roster. If he does, he can help Kyle Shanahan’s offense run the ball in its outside zone blocking scheme.

And if he doesn’t, he’ll be equipped with the guidance and mindset needed to bounce back.

“My husband always knew that DJ’s talent wasn’t the talent of other kids, but the determination is what would get him where he wanted to go,” Tami said.

“He was always told you can do whatever you want to do. DJ had to fight through so many hard times. That really taught him to hang in there, watching my husband hang in there. My husband never felt sorry for himself. That made DJ who he is.”

Following in Dad’s Footsteps

Once he came of age, DJ knew he wanted to take on a leadership role similar to the one his father assumed. He began that effort this offseason by traveling to Haiti, assisting those affected by the devastating earthquake of 2010. Once DJ got back, he and a friend, Nick Thompson, began filing paperwork to establish the Don Tialavea Foundation. [url=]Wholesale Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jerseys[/url]

They wasted no time getting started. Last month, DJ visited Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, where he rounded up a group of local football players for an event sponsored by the foundation. They spent quality time with young patients, talking about football, about Disney movies, about methods to deal with adversity. [url=]San Francisco 49ers Jerseys[/url]

DJ’s plan is to honor his dad by continuing to help kids in need — from Utah to Georgia to third-world nations across the globe. According to his website, “[t]hese projects will lead to broader opportunities by lightening the load of an individual, increasing their confidence, and helping them envision their contribution to positive change in their community.”

“Hopefully we can do some big things,” DJ said. “Just create lots of positive opportunities for people who are less fortunate and don’t have the resources to succeed like they want to. I want to push that and be able to give them what they deserve.” [url=]Wholesale San Francisco 49ers Jerseys[/url]

As DJ evolved into a man, and as Don’s condition worsened, Tami remained a constant source of warmth and support. Being a mother under ideal conditions is a monumental undertaking; doing so with an ailing husband is, of course, particularly challenging.

Because she was the Tialaveas’ rock, Don was able to teach his kids so many crucial lessons. Thinking back to that harrowing day in 1991 when she thought she’d have to tackle parenthood on her own, Tami understands how lucky Julianne, DJ and Abigail were to have their dad around for so long.

Now, she swells with pride knowing her boy is spreading Don’s wisdom, kindness and charitable ways to those who need it.

“I’ve always known that my kids were going to be a monument to their father. And that’s exactly what DJ is doing right now,” Tami said. “To see DJ do that, and to pull our family into it, is overwhelmingly emotional, because I know how proud his dad would be.”

Click here to learn more about the Don Tialavea Foundation.