When you watch John Hardy-Tuliau play in the secondary for the Massachusetts Pirates he looks like a natural. His great sense of timing and his knack for defending receivers’ routes is the reason why he is the Pirates co-leader in interceptions with six and one of the top tacklers on the team.
You could say his skills were inherited. His father, John Hardy, played two years as a defensive back with the Chicago Bears after a college career that saw him intercept seven passes with two touchdowns between 1987 and 1990 with the California Golden Bears.
Hardy-Tuliau’s numbers were just as impressive during his college career at the University of Hawaii. He played in every contest during his four years as a Warrior starting in 44 of 51 games. He averaged 60 tackles per season, had six career interceptions and 16 tackles for a loss.
But one could say he’s owes his football success to his mom.
“I started playing Pop Warner in third grade. There was a time when I was not sure if I would continue to play but it was my mom who encouraged me to play in high school,” he said.
Hardy-Tuliau went on to be a two-time all-league performer at Vista Murrieta High School in Murrieta, California, playing against west coast powers like Murrieta Valley, Chaparral and Norco. As a senior he had 10 interceptions, returning three for touchdowns. He also blocked 26 kicks during his varsity career.
Upon arriving at Hawaii in 2010 he played right away.
“I started at nickel as a true freshman. In my sophomore year I was moved to free safety,” he added.
His teams enjoyed instant success as the Warriors went 10-4, defeating two top 25 opponents and had an appearance in a post season bowl game. The next three years Hawaii struggled, but Hardy-Tuliau’s numbers were impressive. Almost as impressive as his surroundings.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “When you’re out there you really don’t realize that you are in a resort. Sometimes I just had to stop what I was doing and look around me. I was blessed to play football, play in a beautiful place and have my education paid for. I had a great four years there.
But what is the biggest misconception about playing football in Hawaii?
“The biggest misconception is that you go to the beach every day. It’s not true. You go a lot, but not every day. There’s a lot of work to be done between school and practice. The regular students might have a better time out there,” he said with a laugh.
Still the question needs to be asked, did he learn how to surf?
“On my recruiting visit I was taught just one time how to surf, but that was it. I didn’t go back.”
When college was all over he trained for his pro day but did not get any calls from the NFL. He wound up in the Canadian Football League and played for the B.C. Lions, but was released near the end of the 2014 season.
“In 2015 I had a little stint with the LA Kiss in the Arena Football League. That’s where I got my first taste of indoor football. I did not finish that season as I sat out. I was being drafting by Major League Football but that never came through so I sat out for about a year and a half. Then last year I was picked up by the Spokane Empire of the Indoor Football League. “
That led to his relationship with current Pirates Head Coach Ameer Ismail and his landing in Worcester. When the Whittier, CA native arrived his first week saw him getting snowed in at his hotel but since he has adjusted nicely.
“I love just the change out here. The fans are diehard fans for all of their local teams. I know a lot of these guys having played with some of them in Spokane and it’s developed in to a great team here.
Now he is part of a defense that has 21 interceptions through ten games this season.
“We have a lot of talent on this team. You go down the list and you’ll see a lot of big-time college players with CFL and NFL experience. If you hone that talent and play as a team we can really do some dangerous things on defense. Our coaches and the organization put a lot of pressure on us to win so we are ready for the challenge to show the world who we are and to make a statement in the league,” he added.
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