Falcons Sign Ex-Lions Nose Tackle After Tryout

Olive Sagapolu

Stacy Revere/Getty Images Olive Sagapolu of the Wisconsin Badgers pressures Max Bortenschlager of the Maryland Terrapins on October 21, 2017.

On Monday morning the Atlanta Falcons announced the signing of defensive tackle Olive Sagapolu (pronounced oh-LEE-vay SONG-uh-POE-loo). Agent Jason Bernstein first broke the news, shortly after the team wrapped up this past weekend’s rookie minicamp.

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Sagapolu—6-foot-2 and 331 pounds—is one of a handful of young players who were invited to try out at the rookie minicamp, including fellow defensive lineman Eli Ankou (UCLA), inside linebacker Curtis Bolton (Oklahoma), quarterback Jake Dolegala (Central Connecticut State) and wide receiver C.J. Saunders (Ohio State).

Sagapolu has yet to appear in an NFL game, but the former Wisconsin Badger has been trying to earn a regular job in the league since being signed by the Green Bay Packers as a rookie undrafted free agent following the 2019 NFL Draft. For most of the time since, he’s been on the practice squad or offseason roster of the Detroit Lions.

It won’t be easy for him to earn a job on the defensive line in Atlanta, especially with the mix of veterans that are in place and Ta’Quon Graham added to that position group in the fifth-round of the draft. One thing potentially working in his favor, though, is that he’s a traditional 3-4 nose tackle with the kind of size profile that defensive coordinator Dean Pees favored when he was the DC in Baltimore.

Sagapolu is a Former Cheerleader

If nothing else, Sagapolu has an exceptionally interesting background. His college bio notes that he enjoys swimming, singing and playing the ukulele, and that he has two uncles who played football for Michigan State, both of whom went on to play in the NFL. (One of his uncles, Tupe Peko, was a seventh-round pick of the New York Jets in 2001 and went on to play 27 games for the Indianapolis Colts. The other, Domata Peko, was a fourth-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2006 and has since played for the Bengals, Broncos, Ravens and Cardinals.)

More notably, Sagapolu lettered in cheerleading as a senior in high school (at a school with a long-running co-ed program that has won regional, state and national championships).

Then he went on to showcase his skills with the Wisconsin Badgers cheerleaders when he got to college. In fact, in 2018 Josette Jaucian, Wisconsin’s longtime spirit squad director, told ESPN senior writer Adam Rittenberg: “He’s better than some of our guys. He can throw a girl all the way to the top. He’s so outgoing and fun. There’s always a smile on his face.”

He Can Do a Standing Backflip

There are also more than a few clips on social media in which Sagapolu displays some of his natural cheerleading ability.

He has also frequently demonstrated the ability to do a standing backflip:

Of course, the Falcons only need him to display the kind of defensive line skills that made him All-Big Ten honorable mention in 2017. As a football player at Wisconsin, he played in 44 games (26 starts) and recorded 61 tackles, including 10 tackles for loss, six sacks, one interception and one fumble recovery.

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