Joe Tuipala was signed this off-season by the Washington Redskins and allocated to the Cologne Centurions of NFL Europe. The Centurions find themselves entrenched in a battle at the top of the standings with league leading Berlin Thunder coming to town this weekend. It promises to be a classic battle of offense versus defense.
Berlin’s quarterback Dave Ragone leads the league in touchdown passes; their running back Little John Flowers is first in rushing touchdowns, while Cologne’s defense is ranked first in total yards allowed. Cologne linebacker Joe Tuipala is a key cog in the Centurions’ defense, and could be a key factor in deciding the game.
At 28-years old, the Hawaii native is not your average NFL Europe player. He is older than most of his compatriots, and his maturity and experience is showing on the field. He currently ranks second on the Centurions in tackles with 22, and his 19 solo tackles lead the club.
Tuipala’s journey to this point has been a long and winding one. After graduating from San Diego State University in 1999, Tuipala spent training camp with the Detroit Lions. After being released following training camp, he realized that making the NFL was more difficult than he had expected.
Late in 1999, the New Orleans Saints came calling, giving Tuipala another chance at breaking into the league. Following the 1999 season, he found himself in Spain playing for the Barcelona Dragons. Tuipala returned to the Saints following the NFL Europe season and was released by New Orleans prior to the start of the regular season.
At this point in his career, Tuipala considered hanging it up, and then life threw him a curve ball. In an attempt to fill the football void left in the springtime, Vince McMahon, the father of modern professional wrestling, decided to start a new league, and the XFL was born.
The Las Vegas Outlaws drafted Tuipala, where he quickly became infatuated with the game of football again. By the end of the season, Joe Tuipala was second in the league in sacks with six, garnering him a spot on the All-League team while coming in third in the voting for Defensive Player of the Year.
Of note to Redskin fans is that also playing linebacker for the Outlaws was former Redskin Kurt Gouveia, most remembered for his interception of Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly in Super Bowl XXVI. Tuipala and Gouveia, who ironically coaches the linebackers for the Berlin Thunder, have much in common – both are Hawaiian, both are Mormon and obviously they both play the same position. Tuipala counts the time spent in Las Vegas with Gouveia, and the subsequent relationship they have formed as an invaluable part of his football career.
After the XFL folded, Tuipala got a shot with the Jacksonville Jaguars. In the 2001 team, he saw limited action, leading the team with 20 tackles on special teams in 12 games. He also added 12 tackles on defense from the middle linebacker spot.
The following season, Tuipala saw action in 15 games, registering 16 special teams tackles to again lead the team, while contributing five tackles as the reserve middle linebacker.
Then in 2003, Tuipala suffered a shoulder injury that clost him his season. The Jaguars subsequently released him, and he spent 2004 out of football.
Many would have quit at that point, but thanks to his hard work, determination and never-say-die attitude, Tuipala is back in the NFL with another shot. Tuipala credits his parents with instilling these traits in him, and he looks forward to passing them to his three children.
With the Redskins’ hole at middle linebacker and love for guys who excel at special teams, this could be the shot he has been looking for.
Scott Hurrey is a Senior Writer for www.theHogs.net. Scott can be contacted via email at JansenFan@theHogs.net.
Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Scott Hurrey