A pair of Cal players were selected in the first round of Thursday night's NFL Draft, with Jacksonville surprisingly taking defensive tackle Tyson Alualu with the 10th overall pick and Detroit selecting running back Jahvid Best with the 30th pick of the first round.
Alualu probably won't help the Jacksonville Jaguars sell a single season ticket. Even his family and friends are seemingly too far away to boost attendance.
He could increase the team's pathetic pass rush, though, and that's all the Jaguars say they really care about.
Jacksonville selected Alualu with the 10th pick, a surprising move for a franchise that desperately needs someone to bolster sagging ticket sales.
"I've had a lot of questions about him at No. 10, and I completely understand it," general manager Gene Smith said. "I am not trying to win a popularity contest. I understand that people are going to have questions. I'm about winning a Super Bowl."
The Jaguars, coming off a 7-9 season in which they had a league-worst 14 sacks, believe Alualu could help get them there.
The 6-foot-2, 295-pound Hawaiian and former California standout will compete for the starting job two-time Pro Bowler John Henderson has occupied the last eight seasons. Smith indicated the Jaguars would entertain trade offers for Henderson, seemingly ready to part ways with him in exchange for more draft picks this weekend.
"I'll certainly listen to what anybody has to say
"I'm open to whatever consideration may help this football team get better over the next few days."
Even if it means getting rid of the guy who has been a stalwart in the middle of Jacksonville's defense for nearly a decade?
"He's a guy that has a good reputation around the NFL." Smith said. "We're going to do calls and keep an open mind to what other teams are saying. Certainly we have a lot of considerations we can go through with the remainder of tonight and into the early morning hours. We'll listen to anything."
Alualu started 39 of 51 games at Cal and finished with 16 sacks and 190 tackles. He played defensive end as a senior, but Smith and coach Jack Del Rio, a former Hayward High star, envision him playing alongside second-year player Terrance Knighton for the foreseeable future — maybe even giving Jacksonville the kind of tackle tandem that Henderson and Marcus Stroud did for years.
But he's probably not going to be a huge draw.
The Jaguars blacked out nine of 10 home games last season and could have used some star power to sell season tickets and avoid more television blackouts. But Florida cornerback Joe Haden, Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain and Clemson running back C.J. Spiller went in the three picks before Jacksonville.
Any of those three would have been well-received selections in the River City, but a defensive tackle from the West Coast whose name was hardly mentioned in any first-round mock draft and certainly not in the top 10?
"That's not my goal, to be bold," Smith said. "My goal is to improve the roster, acquiring the best talent with the right kind of character and competitiveness that it takes to win at the highest level."
Alualu, one of 19 children raised in a Polynesian culture that centers on family, certainly fits the bill. He is married, has two children, has a nonstop motor, a 35-inch vertical and was a team captain. The Jaguars compared him to Aaron Kampman and Kyle Vanden Bosch.
"The more work we did, the stronger we felt about him," Smith said.