Some players choose to play football, others have no choice in the matter. Corvallis (Ore.) two-way lineman Isaac Seumalo grew up in a football family and didn't have much of a choice, but is thrilled with the way things worked out.
The American Family Insurance jersey presentation tour presented Seumalo with his Under Armour All-American jersey Thursday. The talented lineman said he set several goals for himself when he was just a sophomore, and playing in the Under Armour Game is one he can now check off.
"I'm so thankful for this honor," Seumalo said. "This is a big deal for me, and I set this as a goal of mine when I was a sophomore. I have some lofty goals, and playing in this game was a big one. I want to start as a true freshman in college and be a freshman All-American.
"I want to be an All-American by my sophomore year, get my degree in three years and be good enough to play in the NFL. I want to make a Pro Bowl, win a Super Bowl and one day make the Hall of Fame. I know those are lofty goals, but why even set a goal if it's not something worth striving for."
Seumalo has definitely come a long way from when he first started playing football.
"I first started playing football in the second grade and wasn't that good," Seumalo said. "My parents made me play, to be honest. My dad, being a college coach and all, would take me outside and say, 'let's go, were practicing right now,' and I didn't have much of a say in it. It's funny, sometimes you hear stories about coaches not wanting to push their kids and letting them choose the sport on their own, but that wasn't how it was in our house."
Seumalo's father, Joe, the current defensive line coach at Oregon State, played at the University of Hawaii and then in the Canadian Football League for six years. His first college job was with the Warriors, where he coached alongside current Beavers offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh.
"My dad and Coach Cav have been huge in my development as a football player," the younger Seumalo said. "When I got into seventh and eighth grade, that's when I started to develop a passion for football. I started to learn the game and how to play the right way. My dad taught me how to play defense and coach Cav taught me offense.
"I learned technique, how to step, hand placement; things most players learn in college, I was learning in junior high. We watched film together, and I learned more. I got bigger and stronger and by the time I was a sophomore, I was starting to dominate. The summer after my sophomore year, I went to a Nike camp and got MVP. By the time I was a junior, and I'm not trying to sound cocky, but I felt like I was good enough to play anywhere in college."
Seumalo had an all-state season as a junior on both sides of the ball, and scholarship offers started to fly in. Some still saw the lineman as more of a regional recruit until he came out to the Stanford Nike Camp and again earned MVP honors over a loaded field that included big-name linemen such as Kyle Murphy (San Clemente, Calif.) and Erik Magnuson (San Diego/La Costa Canyon).
"That was big for me for sure," Seumalo said. "That camp got me invited to The Opening in Oregon and also helped get me noticed for the Under Armour Game. I know I can still get better and I learned that right away at The Opening. On the second day, I got beat in the one-on-ones back-to-back reps and that was the first time I had lost a rep at any camp.
"It humbled me and showed I still have plenty to learn. My goal is to be the best player on the field, every snap. I know I can't take a rep off, especially on the offensive line. You play defense and get beat, no one notices. You play on the offensive line and get beat and it's a sack and the whole world sees it."
Seumalo knows playing in the Under Armour Game will put him on center stage with all eyes on him once again.
"The competition is going to be incredible," Seumalo said. "The practices are going to be incredible going against some of the best players in the country. My eyes were opened at The Opening, and I know how good I need to be. I don't want to get beat playing in a nationally televised game so I'm working my butt off right now.
"Our season is going well, and I lead the state in sacks with 10 and haven't given up a sack as well. I'm getting double-teamed a lot, constantly chop-blocked, but that's part of the game. I just want to finish the year healthy and then get out to Florida and have some fun competing against some great players."
Greg Biggins covers recruiting in the West region. He can be reached at Greg.Biggins@espn.com.