Mulitalo emerges as leader
Sophomore Cyrus Mulitalo continues a leadership trend at the Hornet linebacker position
The State Hornet
Playing behind Tyson Butler last season as a freshman, “Mully” Mulitalo earned himself the starting position at middle linebacker over the off-season when Butler was moved to outside linebacker. Lou Baiz, the Hornet’s defensive coordinator, said they made the decision to move Butler to the outside because the coaching staff wanted to play their best group of guys on the field. Mulitalo contributes a lot of his success from his time playing with Butler.
“Last year watching Tyson and learning from him has really improved my game. I just take what I learned, put it out there on the field and basically good results happen,” Mulitalo said.
And it has shown. Despite losing 28-18 to Montana State, it was Mulitalo’s fifth consecutive game with tackles in double digits (12). Mulitalo is third in the Big Sky Conference in tackles with 64, while in his freshman year he finished the season with a mere 22.
With this being Butler's senior year, Mulitalo is not only filling the role on the field as a starter, but as a team leader as well. Mulitalo said he has become a different person in stepping up in his role as a captain by setting examples for his teammates on the field and being a leader to the young players while still only being a second year player.
With the focus on middle linebacker on the defensive side, Mulitalo has become the one who calls the shots and calls the plays. Sac State is a school that calls the linebackers to be leaders early, Butler said, and it has been exciting to see Mulitalo grow as a player.
“Cyrus fell into the leadership role perfectly and will carry on the great tradition of [Sac State] linebackers,” Butler said.
Adjusting to the Hornets' defensive scheme wasn't difficult, seeing that it was similar to his high school defense, Mulitalo said. Both schemes ask a lot from the middle linebacker to defend the pass and stop run, he added. In both schemes, he’s been able to be successful on the run stop because of the effort of the defensive line.
With the defensive line holding the opposing offensive line, Mulitalo has been able to roam free around the field and find the ball carrier. A 2005 graduate from Arroyo High School in San Lorenzo, his time as a running back has also helped him out on defense because it gives him the perspective of the ball carrier.
“[It] helps me see the same thing the running back sees and meet them at the hole and stop them at the line of scrimmage,” Mulitalo said.
As a high school player, he broke the Hayward Area Athletic League career all-purpose yards with 2,839 and was named the San Francisco Chronicle East Bay Player of the Year. From his time playing in high school, Mulitalo knew once he stepped onto the field, it was something he loved doing and wanted to do for the rest of his life.
Ever since high school, it has been a goal of Mulitalo to play college football and hopefully in the pros. Coach Baiz told Mulitalo he has the potential to play in the NFL if he can continue to work harder and improve on his technique.
“If he can be a dominant player in the Big Sky, he can get more attention from the NFL,” Baiz said. Mulitalo looks up to other Polynesian players in the NFL such as Troy Polamalu, strong safety for the Pittsburgh, and his cousin Edwin Mulitalo, an offensive guard for the Baltimore Ravens, and sees them as a positive influence in the Samoan culture.
Polamalu and his cousin Edwin are athletes that are setting examples for Polynesians around the world, Mulitalo said. He uses them both as his motivation to reach the pros.
“It helps seeing active Samoan athletes being productive and hopefully it brings more attention [and] raises eyebrows to other Samoan collegiate players,” Mulitalo said.
Until graduation, Mulitalo just plans on getting better every year. Before being satisfied with how well he's doing this season, Mulitalo plans to top himself in the following years.
“However good of a season I have this year, next year has got to be a lot better, two times better, senior year three times better,” Mulitalo said. “I just got to keep working harder and harder every year.”Matthew Beltran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org