There’s no doubt Sam Tevi has what it takes to be an effective tackle in the National Football League.
Coaches and teammates rave about his footwork and natural ability, confident he’ll have a lengthy career.
However, the Chargers need the raw rookie to grow up in a hurry as he’s now the Bolts’ primary swing tackle with Chris Hairston out for the season.
“Sam Tevi will step up,” Head Coach Anthony Lynn said after announcing Hairston was being placed on the Reserved/Non-Football Injury list. “He’ll probably play more…He has the talent. It’s just catching up, mentally. He’s been here long enough to where we feel comfortable if we have to put Sam in the game.”
A healthy scratch the first two weeks, Tevi is ready for the challenge.
In fact, his journey to becoming an NFL offensive lineman is anything but ordinary.
The 6-5, 311-pound tackle began his career as a defensive lineman as a freshman, where he backed a certain senior named Tenny Palepoi at Utah. The next year, his coaches moved him to the offensive side of the ball, believing his quickness and footspeed were perfectly tailored for the position.
It proved to be a fortuitous switch for Tevi, who the Bolts selected 190th overall in the sixth round. Still, the adjustment from the college game to the NFL was more drastic than he even expected.
“It’s a really big difference,” he admitted. “Coming in here and experiencing what it’s like to play in this league, it’s (a whirlwind). I just tried to do whatever it is they asked me to do. From rookie minicamp to OTAs to everything building up to this point, I tried to lean on the older vets. Seeing little improvements (along the way) really gets you excited. So I just need to be ready for whatever comes my way.”
Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt has seen marked improvement in Tevi’s game from the moment he arrived.
“Sam came a long way over camp,” Whiz said. “He’s grown a lot. If he had to play, playing with some veteran players instead of in the preseason when he was with a whole bunch of guys that were in the same boat as him will help him. But there’s no question that from a physical talent standpoint, that he has (the skills). That’s his turn now, so he’s got to be prepared for it.”
It’s also important for a young player to know his strengths and weaknesses. Tevi is fully aware his quick feet are his best asset, using them to his advantage when the ball is snapped. As he adds more into his toolbox over the years, his footwork will always be at the foundation. However, he’s spent as much time in the vets’ hip pocket to be ready at a moment’s notice.
“I’ve listened a lot to the older vets like Russell Okung, Joe Barksdale and Matt Slauson. I’ve picked their brains and stayed in my playbook. I just needed to be ready in case I was called upon. Now I (might) be needed more. I understand it’s the NFL, and it has been exciting for me to be on the sideline and cheer my team on, but now I need to be ready.”