Bronco Beat

Boise State’s 27-year-old defensive lineman explains his long journey

I’m reporting a feature on Boise State senior defensive tackle Tutulupeatau Mataele for Sunday’s newspaper. Mataele was made available to the local media Friday for the first time since he enrolled at the school in January 2013. He was a projected starter in the fall of 2013 until an academic issue tied to his junior college record forced him out of school that fall. He returned in 2014 but was suspended by the NCAA for that season. He gets one year to play one season of college football.

Here are some highlights of the conversation with Mataele, who is known as “Deuce.” ( And click here if if you want to hear him pronounce his first name.)

– Mataele is 27 years old. He was born in Utah and graduated from high school there. He also lived in Hawaii, Arizona, Los Angeles and Oakland. About nine months after high school, he went on a two-year LDS mission. He was uncertain what he wanted to do when he returned, so he helped with the family business in Utah. About a year later, friends convinced him to try out for the Mt. San Antonio College football team. He spent a year and a half there and transferred to Boise State. “I didn’t know if I wanted to play basketball or football,” Mataele said. “I chose the football route. I went and tried out and I made the team there.”

– He’s married. He and his wife, Ella, have an 8-month-old son – Tutulupeatau Mataele III.

– On the wait: “From the first Spring Game, I was itching to get out there on the field. Of course, we had some setbacks. That issue is taken care of. All I’m looking forward to now is to get on the field.”

– On the academic issue that forced him to sit out: “I take the full blame. ... I’ve always been a good student. I guess there were some mistakes that went on in transcripts.”

– During his suspension from school in the fall of 2013, he worked in the concrete business with an uncle who lives in the Treasure Valley. “I really didn’t know what was going to happen. I kind of just rode out the storm.”

– Mataele was brought back onto the team in January 2014, shortly after Bryan Harsin became the coach. Harsin wasn’t on staff when Mataele was recruited but linebackers coach Andy Avalos was. “(Harsin) was down to ride with the whole situation,” Mataele said. “That just explains the whole aspect of Boise State football and the love they have for their players and not only the football team but all the teams. They really respect the people that they choose.”

– On coaches keeping him on scholarship knowing he could only play one season: “I felt special. They could have picked some freshman up and now he could have been out there on the field actually playing. For that, I just felt like I was honored, that the coaching staff really put their word behind their heart.”

– He played football, basketball and tennis in high school. He competed in some track and field events, too. “Anything that would keep me out of trouble,” he said. He was a 235-pound option quarterback in high school and tight end.

– On persevering: “The main thing that helped me out the most was my wife really backed me up and the boys on the team kept me on their shoulders, helped me out. When things were getting tough, the boys always helped me out. ... They called me up to hang out and do things with the team to make me feel more part of the team.”

– On this fall: “This is the most opportunistic time that I’ve had in my life, to be able to have a family, to help support my family after this year. This team is a great team not only on the field but off the field, too. That’s the kind of life that I want to live. I want to help out my children so they can do the same things that we do. The same culture that the Broncos have, I want that instilled in my (children).”

– On the hype surrounding him: “I’m just eager to get on the field. I know a lot of people have been talking and whatnot. I just let that all go behind me and let the pads talk.”

– On pursuing college football: “After a couple games (in junior college), I felt like I could probably pursue this dream that everyone else had, just kind of piggyback off them and try to play college football.”

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Two other Broncos who hadn’t done local interviews since joining the program were available Friday: wide receivers D.J. Dean and Austin Cottrell. The videos are below: