Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) linebacker Solomon Tuliaupupu chose Southern Cal on Wednesday over UCLA and Notre Dame. USA TODAY talked with the American Family Insurance ALL-USA Defensive Player of Year about his choice.
What was the deal with the King Kong statue at your signing?
My little brother, every picture that he’s in, he has his King Kong in it. That literally was not scripted. That’s my 6-year-old brother (Timani) and that’s his favorite toy and he never goes anywhere without it.
When did you decide?
“I made the decision Monday morning of last week. It just felt like I was a part of the Trojan family. That’s what they call their network and they take care of each other. I wanted to be a part of that.”
How’s your recovery coming from your foot injury?
“I’m still recovering and I’m trying to take every precaution I can to be full speed and ready for camp this season. I just got an upgrade on the little scooter I’ve been using. It has bike tires and a big basket. It’s pretty tight. I should paint it red (USC colors).”
What were the calls to UCLA and Notre Dame like?
“It was really difficult because throughout the whole process, you build a relationship with these guys. They are people too and they have to look out for what’s best for their job. A lot of the time, it’s an emotional thing. It’s a business, but you have to be compassionate about it. The UCLA coaches and Notre Dame coaches were very understanding. They wanted me to rethink it, but they never said anything bad about another school.”
How close is USC to where you live?
Without traffic, it would be a 20-minute drive, but there’s traffic all the time.
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How did your day go?
“I had to leave the house by 6:30 because it took two hours to get to the ESPN studio in L.A. I got there by 8:30 and the announcement was at 9:30. After that, I talked with my family on the phone and with everyone calling me to offer congratulations, I didn’t get out of there for another hour. I don’t think I’m going to make it to school.”
How did you celebrate?
“Me and my family, we have this thing, after every USC game we’ve been to, we head to Tam’s Burgers in Compton. They’re known for their chili cheese fries. It’s a bomb place. It looks like a little hole in the wall. We ate there and now we’re going to start a little barbeque at home and have a little happy energy.”