Taulapapa in position to make bigger impact at UVA

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- When forced onto the field last season, Wayne Taulapapa had to co-opt the jersey number of an injured teammate. This year, Taulapapa has a jersey number he hopes to make his own.

The rising sophomore running back was one of 36 Virginia football players who earned the right to select a jersey number on Sunday night. Taulapapa will wear No. 21, which belonged to defensive back Juan Thornhill the previous four seasons.

Taulapapa didn't earn a jersey number last season, but he did earn a varsity letter at UVA as a true freshman. Wearing No. 7 but without his name on the back -- the number belonged to safety Chris Moore, who picked it last summer but didn't appear in a game because of an injury -- Taulapapa appeared in seven games on special teams.

"More so last year was kind of a progress year for me, especially coming back from the mission," said Taulapapa, a Hawaii native who originally signed with UVA in 2016 but delayed the start of his college career for two years while on an LDS mission to Nicaragua. "There was a lot of things that I had to do to get fundamentally sound within football, kind of how to learn to play football again. And so just kind of earning my way and earning my reps, a little at a time."

This summer, Taulapapa is competing to take over for Jordan Ellis as the Cavaliers' top running back. The 5-9 Taulapapa ran for a pair of touchdowns in UVA's spring game, and ended the spring as UVA's No. 1 running back. His competition in camp includes juniors PK Kier and Lamont Atkins -- who both got to select jersey numbers on Sunday as well -- and true freshman Mike Hollins.

"I've been back for a year now," Taulapapa said. "Fundamentally, it's coming together. The strength is back, the speed is back. And so hopefully we can capitalize within games."



 
CBS19NEWS.COM COMMENT GUIDELINES
The comments sections of CBS19News.com are designed for thoughtful, intelligent conversation and debate. We want to hear from our viewers, but we only ask that you use your best judgment. CBS19News.com tracks IP addresses. Repeat violators may be banned from posting comments.
View Comment Guidelines
powered by Disqus