DJ Tialavea

DJ Tialavea coaches the Aggies as they play Fresno State on Nov. 14, 2020, in Logan. Tialavea has been hired as a full-time assistant on Blake Anderson’s staff.

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There’s no question the 2012 college football season was a special one for Utah State, which went 11-2, blew out Toledo in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and finished 17th in the final AP Poll.

Three of the top players from that team will soon be coaching together at their Alma mater. New USU head coach Blake Anderson officially announced the hiring of a trio of former Aggies to his coaching staff on Monday.

Those men are defensive line coach Al Lapuaho, tight end coach DJ Tialavea and running backs coach Chuckie Keeton. Keeton, a first-team all-conference quarterback for the Aggies, has been a part of Anderson’s staff since he first arrived in Logan prior to his introductory press conference last month.

Tialavea and Lapuaho were both part of USU’s football program this past season — Tialavea as a graduate assistant and Lapuaho as a strength and conditioning assistant. Additionally, Lapuaho was a defensive graduate assistant for the Aggies from 2018-19.

Lapuaho also has experience as a graduate assistant at Oregon State — a role he held from 2016-17. The West Valley City native graduated from USU with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies, with an emphasis in psychology and physical education.

Lapuaho played at Snow College for two seasons and was a first-team all-conference defensive tackle. He transferred to USU for his final two seasons (2011-12) and was a first-team all-Western Athletic Conference selection as a senior. In Lapuaho’s two years in Logan, he started all 26 games and contributed with 66 tackles, including 7.0 for a loss, and 4.0 sacks.

The former Granger High star signed a free agent contract with the St. Louis Rams in 2013 and spent time on their practice squad that season. Lapuaho also was one the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers practice squads before playing one season for the Colorado Crush of the Indoor Football League.

“Thank you Aggie Nation and @CHbanderson for giving me this opportunity!” Lapuaho posted Monday on Twitter. “LET’S GET IT BABY!”

Likewise, Tialavea carved out a short career in the NFL. The West Jordan native was in the league from 2014-17 and played with four different teams — mostly on practice squads. Tialavea did catch a 1-yard touchdown pass for the Atlanta Falcons in a regular season game against the Carolina Panthers in 2016.

Tialavea was a tight end for the Aggies from 2010-13 and played in 40 games, with 17 starts. The former West Jordan High standout was an exceptional blocker for USU and also chipped in with 198 yards and five touchdowns on 30 receptions.

Tialavea graduated from USU with a bachelor’s degree in sports management and a master’s degree in education.

“My Alma Mater, the school I LOVE,” Tialavea posted Monday on Twitter. “What a BLESSING.”

This will be Keeton’s second stint as a Aggie coach, but his first time as a full-time assistant. The Houston native was a graduate assistant at USU in 2018 and also spent time as a grad assistant for a pair of former Aggie head coaches — for Matt Wells at Texas Tech (2019-20) and for Gary Andersen at Oregon State (2017).

Keeton earned his bachelor’s degree from USU in business administration.

“Incredibly grateful for the opportunity to come back and get to work,” Keeton posted last month on Twitter. “Get ready to light the A Blue 1 day at a time! #EAT.”

Other members of Anderson’s staff will be officially announced in the upcoming days.

Jason Turner is a sports reporter for The Herald Journal. He can be reached at or 435-792-7237.

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