Paul Soliai has a simple goal: “I think I can be the best” the Dolphins’ defensive tackle told the Miami Herald on Wednesday. By “the best” Soliai means the premier run-stopper in pro football. The one-man roadblock. The antidote to 100-yard rushers. Now entering his seventh season Soliai wants not only to join the league’s list of elite tackles — a group that includes Geno Atkins and Ndamukong Suh — but to then surpass them. He might already be there. The scouting service Football Outsiders found that in 2012 opposing teams gained on average a half-yard on snaps in which Soliai was credited with making the play — best among NFL defensive tackles. And to think: If not for a late call from the University of Utah more than a decade ago Soliai’s uniform might be fatigues and a rifle rather than pads and helmet. He grew up in the far-flung American Samoa village of Nu’uuli and as a teen was known more for his volleyball exploits than what he did on the football field. With no college scholarship prospects Soliai had planned on enlisting in the military. He had already taken the ASVAB — the U.S. Army’s aptitude test — a month before his high school graduation and was set to join up. “For everybody in Samoa there’s only two ways off The Rock — go to the Army or go to school” he said. Utah football made the decision an easy one. A last-minute offer took him 5000 miles from home — and gave him the chance to pursue his dreams. This summer Soliai paid the school back. Along with his wife he wrote the athletic department a check for $250000 which will be used in part to pay for a rec room in the football center. Its name: The Paul and LeTasha Soliai Player Lounge. “It’s the ultimate compliment of their experience here” said Manny Hendrix the former Dallas Cowboys cornerback who currently serves as Utah’s director of athletic relations. Said Soliai: “I just thank them for everything they’ve done for me. They gave me an opportunity a free education everything.” Soliai’s donation was one of the largest gifts the school’s athletic department has ever received Hendrix said. But that was only part of Soliai’s summer. He also held charity events in Utah and Las Vegas including a reggae concert featuring Shaggy and the Wailers. Those who know him best marvel at Soliai’s personal transformation. During his early days with the Dolphins he at times seemed more concerned about enjoying the spoils of being a football player than actually playing football. In his second year as a pro Soliai was suspended twice for breaking team rules. In 2010 he made a major life change. He got rid of his team of advisors who didn’t properly serve him and took on local representation who essentially became his live-in support system. The evolution continued when he and LeTasha adopted a Samoan child. His late nights are a thing of the past. And he has transformed from a player who needed looking after into one who keeps his younger teammates in line.
Dolphins defensive tackle Paul Soliai aiming to become top stopper
Miami Herald | Aug 1