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You don't know Dalvin

CW / Sam MacDonald

Elliott Propes

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What strikes many fans about Dalvin Tomlinson is his quickness off the football, but for the people that really know him, there’s a side of him that doesn’t show on the field. There is more to Tomlinson than being number 54 for the Alabama football team.

“I call him the Renaissance man because he was into a little bit of everything,” his former high school football coach Mike Rozier said. “He gave 100 percent effort in everything he did.”

Tomlinson did more than just play football in high school. He was a great student. He had a 3.8 GPA with Advanced Placement classes. He was an artist. He took art classes all throughout high school and has created a few pieces of his own, which you can find on his Instagram page. If that wasn’t enough, he also played both the trumpet and the saxophone.

In addition to football, Tomlinson threw shot put and discus in track. He decided that he would take up soccer goalkeeping his senior year, and to top it off, he was the first heavyweight wrestler in Georgia history to win three straight state titles.

In fact, Tomlinson may have been better on the wrestling mat than he was on the football field. Tomlinson’s record as a wrestler was 169-2. His two losses were his first varsity match ever and one where he was disqualified for hip-tossing a wrestler on his neck. 

Tomlinson’s most memorable moment might have been his nine-second pin to win the state title his senior year. Those nine seconds became a state record. His Alabama teammate and outside linebacker, Ryan Anderson, said he watches film on Tomlinson’s hands. He thought Tomlinson must have learned “Jujitsu or something.”

“I guess you could say wrestling in high school helped out a lot. Ryan [Anderson] just thinks I’m a freak of nature as it is already,” Tomlinson said. “I feel like wrestling was probably the biggest thing that helped out just because you learn leverage, and that’s a big key to defensive line [versus] offensive line.”

Saturday against Ole Miss, number 54 was everywhere. Tomlinson was a force up front against the Rebels offense and matched his career high with seven tackles. Tomlinson is now fourth on the defense with 11 tackles including a sack.

“Dalvin is a big part of this defense. He doesn’t get a lot of credit he deserves, but Dalvin is a monster,” Anderson said. “[Last] Thursday we were talking, and I thought he was like 280, he’s like 310. So he got up on the scale, and I was like dang, he don’t look like it. He don’t play like it. He’s one of the fastest D-linemen we have besides Da’Shawn [Hand].”

Rozier said that speed helped Tomlinson play multiple positions. He had him play offensive tackle, defensive end, defensive tackle, and even some middle linebacker at Henry County High School. Rozier saw him run with Jonathan Allen to the end zone against Ole Miss, and it reminded him of play he made in high school that he said he will never forget.

It was a rivalry game against Stockbridge, and Stockbridge had the ball near the goal line. Tomlinson ripped inside and tackled the quarterback. Then it was a blur. Tomlinson took the ball 98 yards for a touchdown to win the game. No one could catch him. Now his college coach is starting to see those plays.

“Dalvin has been a real contributor for us two years now, last year and this year,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “He’s been an outstanding player for us. He’s gotten better and better each year. He was a little bit undersized when we recruited him. He’s gotten bigger and stronger, and now he’s a pretty effective player on a consistent basis.”

Tomlinson has not always had it that easy. He is at The University of Alabama because of a promise –– a promise that he made to his late mother, Melinda Tomlinson. She passed away June 30, 2011, at the age of 40 due to type two diabetes complications. Tomlinson was just about to enter his senior year of high school. The last conversation he had with his mother, he talked to her about Tuscaloosa.

“I just told him to be strong, and I said to keep the promise to your mom,” Melinda’s sister, Mary Tomlinson, said. “He always told me he was going to Alabama.”

Dalvin’s father, Willie Gleaton, died of lung cancer when he was just six years old. After Gleaton died, it was his mother and his Aunt Mary that were always there for him and his brother. Melinda was always there for Dalvin’s games and was close to the whole high school team. She became the cook in the concession stands for every game.

“It was basically his only family. It was terrible. She was loved by everyone, but she was really close to those boys and raised those boys the right way,” Rozier said. “I’m sure it was a very tough time for him.”

Now he has fulfilled his mother’s promise, and he couldn’t be happier. Life has been a grind for him, but he knows he will be ok. He has NFL draft scouts looking at him, and if that doesn’t work out, he has already graduated early with a degree in finance. Tomlinson is currently working on his second degree in financial planning.

“It’s pretty surreal. I’m still trying to get used to it,” Dalvin said. “Coach Saban teaches you to keep grinding and working hard, good things are going to come to you. So now I’m playing a lot, and I’m just going to keep grinding for my teammates.”

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You don't know Dalvin