Class of 2022: Husky OL Target Uses Shelton as Role Model, Sounding Board
With the 12th pick in the 2015 NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns selected University of Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton. This son of a Samoan mother and Peruvian father strode across the stage and greeted NFL commissioner Roger Goodell with a bear hug.
Back in Puyallup, Washington, 11-year-old Dave Iuli was overcome with pride.
"When he picked up Roger Goodell, he was wearing a lavalava," Iuli said of formal Samoan attire similar to a kilt but longer. "That's when I knew he was real."
Born in American Samoa, Puyallup High School's Iuli, a 6-foot-5, 330-pound offensive lineman, could relate to Shelton's draft-day attire. He was raised in American Samoa until his family moved to Washington at the age of 8.
Iuli wasn't a bad kid back in American Samoa, but he was restless. He could never sit still. He remembers the school system used various types of corporal punishment to maintain order.
His fidgetiness brought a unique style of punishment in kindergarten.
"They would make us hold up five heavy books in our arms for 10 minutes," he recalled.
The following year, he didn't pay attention and the punishment escalated to a rule slapped across the back of his hands.
"I was never angry about getting smacked," he said. "I looked at it as motivation to improve from it."
As an offensive tackle and a Max Preps Junior High School All-American, Iuli has found a different motivation to keep him focused in school.
"My mother worked hard to to complete her college degree," he said proudly. "She showed me the value ofan education and how I should approach my own schoolwork."
Raising a family in American Samoa became a priority for his mother so she deferred her education until the family reached the states. She recently received a degree from Pierce College.
In Puyallup, his father started his own trucking business and it serves as added inspiration for the football standout to put in effort at what he does.
"He works hard every day to provide for our family," Iuli said. "I hope that I can return the favor one day."
Iuli is a big part of an impressive offensive-line recruiting class for the state that includes Rainier Beach's Josh Conerly and Todd Beamer's Malik Agbo, all Husky targets. All have offers by Washington and speak to the Husky coaches frequently.
Iuli is keeping his recruiting options open, but he sought out Shelton on social media to learn how it was for him to be a Samoan football player at Washington.
Shelton and Iuli are similar in size, with the recruit two and a half inches taller but nearly 10 pounds lighter than the NFL player. The two relate well to each other.
"He has that Super Bowl ring," Iuli said of Shelton's credibility. "He told me how close the Polynesian community is at Washington. Everybody is family. He said they treat you like family and also want you to be successful after football."
Iuli has gone from wearing bamboo sandals to purple and gold cleats for the Puyallup High Vikings. Some day, he might be wearing the same type of shoe and protecting quarterbacks on the shores of Lake Washington.