JT Tuimoloau's 5-Star Work Ethic Separates Him from the Pack

Mike Martin

JT Tuimoloau might be the highest-rated high school football recruit to come out of the Northwest. One reason are the hours he keeps. The summer solstice can't even beat this guy out of bed.

On the longest day of the year in June, the sun rose at 4:30 a.m.

Tuimoloau, the 6-foot-5, 280-pound Eastside Catholic High School defensive end and SI All-American, was already up and moving.  

"I've been waking up at 4 every morning," he said of his daily routine. 

To make himself the nation's No. 1- or 2-ranked player, depending on which recruiting list you subscribe to, Tuimoloau combines his physical gifts with an innate desire to be great. 

Recently, he announced his seven college finalists: Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, USC and Washington. 

While people speculate what he might do, Tuimoloau offers no public hints regarding a football favorite. He'd like to take some campus visits before settling on his final choice, but the pandemic hasn't permitted anyone to tour college programs anywhere.

Whoever receives his college commitment will welcome a determined player with an unmatched work ethic. He often works out at Ford Sports Performance in Bellevue and these early sessions end at 6 a.m. But he's not done.

"I have my first class at 8:15 a.m., and do all of my classes, and then I have another workout after school," the SI All-American said.  

While building strength, Tuimoloau makes sure that he remains flexible and loose for whenever football restarts for him. 

"I want to make sure that I can move at my weight," he said.

As for paring his colleges to his select seven, he's looking at a blue-blood list of football programs. 

"I sat down with my family and we felt that those are the right seven schools to release," Tuimoloau said. 

Sports Illustrated currently ranks the defensive lineman as the No. 2 recruit in the country, behind only quarterback Caleb Williams, from Washington, D.C. and committed to Oklahoma, where he could become a teammate ... of Tuimoloau. 

Here's the SI breakdown of this sensational suburban Seattle player, who has no obvious weaknesses: 

Tuimoloau is not only the top Edge prospect on our board, he could have easily been the top overall prospect in this class. The Washington native is a player we’ve been aware of since before high school, and even then there was talk he was already the best of the 2021 class. Tuimoloau can work as a “Buck” on the edges, as his size, strength and athleticism allow him to be effective both standing up and with his hand down. He can convert speed to power with ease as a pass-rusher, as well as set an edge, anchor and shed blocks in the run game. Although his size does warrant an interior projection to defensive tackle, and that is something we definitely can foresee in his college career, we begin Tuimoloau as an Edge prospect since he’s shown versatility to play as an on-ball Sam, Buck or Jack, 5-technique end in a 3-man front and as a 7/9-technique rush-end in a 4-man front.

Tuimoloau surprises people with the athleticism he carries on a 285-pound frame, which shows up in his other athletic pursuits. He's a talented basketball player, as well.

"I was able to dunk in eighth grade," he said. "I was 15 at the time."

For that reason, Washington is recruiting Tuimoloau in both football and basketball. Huskies basketball coach Mike Hopkins earlier in the year extended a scholarship offer to the Eastside Catholic two-sport star.  

"I always wanted a basketball offer; that's what I was waiting for," Tuimoloau said. "I'm serious about basketball, also."

Even with his jumbo frame, Tuimoloau is athletically gifted to be a two-way football player, someone who could see time at tight end as well as an edge defender.  

Yet he's neither in a rush to make his college selection nor has he set a timetable for coming up with the decision. Time is on his side.

Of his suitors, Tuimoloau knows that Washington has had many players play two sports, such as Nate Robinson, who was a standout in football and basketball, which is a plus for the hometown school. 

Wherever he goes, Tuimoloau would like to take it one step further: be that rare college athlete who plays two sports while being a two-way player on the football field.

He has a lot to consider before he sets his head down on his pillow at night.

"I go to bed between 10:30 and 10:40," he said, making for long days of workouts and classes.

Tuimoloau, of course, has time on his side.