When a dream becomes reality it is always something special. For Tenny Palepoi, that day happened a little over two years ago when he joined the Chargers as an undrafted rookie.
The former University of Utah player is known for his tenaciousness and his work ethic. To put it quite simply, Palepoi works incredibly hard.
Defense runs through his Samoan veins. One of his older brothers, Anton, also a defensive end, was selected by the Seattle Seahawks in round two (#60) of the 2002 NFL Draft. He was one of the highest draft picks to come out of UNLV in 14 years. Father Tony played for the Samoan National Rugby Team.
Whenever Tenny decided to play football, I’m sure the game plan came about as part of his being one of fourteen kids who had to defend themselves growing up with all those bodies!
He began his journey into football at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah. While there he collected 49 tackles, 10 TFL (tackles for loss), two sacks and a fumble recovery in 2011. In 2012 he transferred to the University of Utah where he logged 74 tackles, 12.5 TFL, and 6.5 sacks. He took over the nose tackle position when teammate Star Lotulelei was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 2013. Palepoi was team captain for the Utes and chosen to the second-team All-PAC-12 team (2013). He was also considered one of the best nose tackles in the PAC-12 that year.
Palepoi signed with San Diego just over two years ago as an undrafted free agent. It probably helped having fellow Ute alumni Eric Weddle to help with the transition.
The young defensive tackle played all 16 games of his rookie season. He finished the year with 16 tackles, of which nine were solo endeavors.
One of his best, and most likely difficult, games came November 30, 2014. A road matchup against the Baltimore Ravens mere days after his older brother Francis passed away at just 42 years of age due to a heart condition. That contest saw Palepoi make three tackles in the Bolts’ first win in M & T Stadium in three years.
By all means his sophomore campaign should have been even better. That all went by the wayside when he fractured his foot during training camp on August 1. On August 3, the announcement was made that the young lineman was being placed on the Reserve/Injured list. Coach Mike McCoy further stated, (in part from Eric D. Williams of ESPN)
“This is the part of the business that sucks. I hate to say it, but that’s just the truth. A guy that works as hard as he has…he is one of the guys here all the time…he’s made the most out of every single opportunity he’s had. He had an outstanding year last year, and it sucks to be honest with you.”
I would expect that if he has such a gung-ho work ethic that Palepoi focused sheer determination into getting ready for a 2016 comeback. I know he can be a force once again in John Pagano’s defensive schemes.
Thank you for reading!