BOZEMAN — Tuiasosopo is a name that many recognize in the game of football, whether it be at the college or NFL level. Montana State offensive lineman Taylor Tuiasosopo has been a stalwart for the Cats, but it took him quite some time to feel as though he lived up to his last name.
“It’s always been a lot of pressure on me since I was young, being the Tuiasasopo family name,” he said.
Football wasn’t the main focus for the MSU offensive lineman in high school. It took a significant knee injury for him to consider playing the sport.
“It all started for me in high school when I first blew my knee out,” said Tuiasosopo. "Football wasn’t really a big sport. I boxed and I did basketball. Then when I got hurt, I gained a lot of weight, I was like, ‘you know what I should try this football thing that my whole family does.’”
Living up to the hype of his last name felt like the weight of the world on his shoulders. That's one of the many tattoos on his left arm.
“I got an atlas at the top (held by man),” said Tuiasosopo. “When I got this at that time in my life I kind of felt like carrying the weight of the world.”
Even after he started playing football, in high school Tuiasosopo had off the field issues that hindered his recruiting. Jeff Choate and his staff at Montana State wanted to give him a chance with the Bobcats program. Despite bigger schools eventually offering, the lineman chose to remain with MSU because loyalty is a big thing to him. They helped him take the weight of the world off his shoulders.
“Coach Choate, coach Armstrong early on in my career helped me out, they really helped lighten the load I guess,” he said.
His family ties into the game of football run deep. He’s cousins with former University of Washington quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. His father played for Southern California.
“Get in here (at MSU), and then constantly hearing like media talk, ‘His dad went to USC,’ for me it was kind of like, I’m going to prove myself,” said Tuiasosopo. “Getting that first year and redshirt here and kind of mentally battle with it and once I felt like I was living up to the hype I have put on myself, kind of lightened the load on everything.”
With preseason all-Big Sky honors, Tuiasosopo has felt he has worked to a point in his career where he’s living up to those high expectations that come with his last name. Without leaving his hometown of Lancaster, California, he would have never been in this position.
“That’s the best thing I ever did for me here -- was coming here and just getting out of a fast-paced life,” he said. “Getting out of the living hour to hour life. This has opened up my eyes not to just what I was currently going through, but the life I could live.”
This season the senior is playing for his father, Titus, who died last October, but not without letting Taylor know how proud of him he was.
“It was really touching because one of my last conversations with him was he was just really proud of how far I came,” Tuiasosopo said. "Just to hear him say how proud he is of me, it’s something I’m going to hold onto. It’s an everyday battle when you lose a parent and I never really understood that until it happened. Something you got to go through everyday -- it’s an uphill battle for me right now.”
His last year as a Bobcat is dedicated to his father and there’s moments in Taylor's last season he knows will be hard, moments that he was supposed to share with his dad.
“Senior night, there’s going to be events I know are going to be tough,” he said. “I have certain dates that I have circled on that are going to be a little harder for me. He’s always with me, so I think this whole season, like everything I do.”
After losing a year due to COVID-19, the offensive lineman is ready to show the world why his dad was proud of him.
“Feel like a lot of people have been kind of overlooking me the past three or four years,” said Tuiasosopo. “I think this time around is finally my season. I’m kind of excited to prove that it’s more than hype for me. You can farm for four years just to grow something for one year. I feel like I’ve been planting seeds just to see all my seeds starting to grow and my work starting to be noticed is cool.”
With those seeds growing, he feels as though the next level is within reach.
“I feel like the next level is attainable, not only for me but my teammates as well,” said the Montana State right guard. “We get overlooked at at this division. I just believe in putting what I put in on film and let it do the rest for me.”
Tuiasosopo prides himself on being the nastiest player on the field and that mentality helps the offensive line be one of the best in the FCS. They will need that nastiness this week at Wyoming.