USC defensive lineman Tuli Tuipulotu declares for NFL draft

One day after the Trojans’ season-ending loss to Tulane in the Cotton Bowl, USC defensive lineman Tuli Tuipulotu declared for the NFL draft on Tuesday.

Tuipulotu, a unanimous first-team All-American as a junior, announced his decision with a statement on Twitter.

“Growing up, my dream was always to play at USC,” Tuipulotu wrote. “From the first time I stepped foot on campus at USC, I knew this would be my home. … My time at USC was a special one that I wouldn’t trade for anything and I will always cherish the memories from my time here.”

Fight On Forever #AGTG #Tonganz #gotime

— Tuli Tuipulotu (@TuipulotuTuli) January 4, 2023

Tuipulotu arrived at USC as a three-star recruit out of Lawndale, ranked 40th at defensive tackle in his high school class. Those evaluations would indicate a guy who would spend a full five seasons in college.

Instead, he started half his games as a true freshman and recorded 2.5 tackles for loss. As a sophomore, he was named to the All-Pac-12 first team after starting all 12 games and finishing the season with 48 tackles, 7.5 for loss, a team-high 5.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.

Tuipulotu cemented his legacy at USC as a junior in 2022, becoming USC’s second Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in three years while leading the nation in total sacks with 13.5. The past two seasons, he did whatever the coaching staffs asked of him, moving from his more natural defensive end position to tackle, and even playing a little linebacker when injuries struck the Trojans this year.

So after the minimum of three seasons, Tuipulotu leaves a gaping hole on the USC defense as he heads to the NFL to join his brother, Marlon, a defensive lineman with the Philadelphia Eagles. The younger Tuipulotu is currently projected to be a Day 2 selection, going either in the second or third round of the draft.

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