Multi-talented Saints keep the show running

Saints’ players jump into Rollis Talalemotu’s arms celebrating a win last year against Oregon. The Saints are 1-7 this season.  - Photo by Jesse Beals/file photo 2006
Saints’ players jump into Rollis Talalemotu’s arms celebrating a win last year against Oregon. The Saints are 1-7 this season.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals/file photo 2006

Many people believe football is the ultimate game of strategy. And that’s just on the field. But teams don’t just pop up every Saturday night in the Northwest Football League without somebody doing a lot of plotting and planning not only during the week, but year-round.

For the West Sound Saints, two of those people are Joe Diabo and Rollis Talalemotu. Diabo is the team’s general manager, and Talalemotu is the director of football operations. A quick look tells you they’re built for the game, both able to take the pounding as well as they can dish it out, but the pair come into the game from completely different backgrounds.

Talalemotu was a highly recruited high school tight end out of Rainier Beach High School in Seattle. The 6-foot 4-inch, 300-pounder chose to play at Boise State, where he starred on the defensive line in 1995 and ’96. Talalemotu played mostly as a defensive end in college, but he also spent some time at tackle.

He started his semi-pro career when the team was still the Orcas in 2002, and he was a key player on the team that took the national championship in Orlando in 2005. Talalemotu has returned to playing tight end for the most part, but he’ll do whatever is asked of him for the sake of the team. That includes his administrative job, which sees him do everything he can to help the team get ready to take the field.

“I can’t say enough good things about him,” said Saints coach John Corey. “I wish we had more of him. He’s a class act. He does his homework, he’s very coachable, he’s willing to play anywhere. He’s a great blocker and a great pass catcher, and he’s strong as a bull.”

Diabo (6-4, 285) started with the team as an offensive lineman in 2005, and his first game in a Saints uniform was his first game ever. Diabo didn’t play in college, or even in high school, but by the fifth game of the season he had worked his way into the starting line-up. Unfortunately for Diabo and the Saints, that game also saw him tear the meniscus in his right knee, putting him on the bench for the rest of the next two years and into a surgical suite this past May.

At 30 years old, Diabo is undecided about a return to the field, but his value to the team is never in question.

“We couldn’t do it without him,” said team owner Michael Murray. 

Diabo handles the day-to-day business aspect of running a semi-pro football team.

As with everyone else involved with the Saints organization, Talalemotu and Diabo both have day jobs, and that’s where the greatest similarity can be seen. They’re both Navy. Talalemotu, born and raised in Seattle, is now an administrative assistant at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. Diabo, from Agawan, Mass. came west with the Navy, and is now a physical science technician at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

Diabo fell in love with the Pacific Northwest, and with his wife, Loretta, who he met while stationed in Everett. Now married nine years, the pair have two daughters and no plans of leaving.

Talalemotu met his wife, Heidi, last season when she joined the Saints as a team administrator. Talalemotu showed he’s got moves outside of football as well, sealing the deal with Heidi in a wedding this past April.

Although the Saints are struggling mightily this year, both Diabo and Talalemotu see a bright future.

“We’ve got to work on getting some players in,” Talalemotu said. “We should be OK if we can get the players that we know are out there. All of the schools around here have quality players, and we can help some of those kids get ready to play at the next level.”

Since the Saints players don’t get paid, athletic eligibility for college is not hurt by playing in the Northwest Football League, and the league has a strong track record of sending players on to college for even pro ball. Many players in the Arena League started in semi-pro action, and the NWFL sent it’s share to the old XFL.

“We have a couple of kids that could play division one,” Diabo said. “Our new right tackle, Tony Criswell, and Anthony Galloway (running back) are two that come to mind right away. And Marvin (Bronson — QB, receiver and defensive back) could probably play in the Arena League right now.”

More importantly, however, to Diabo, is a higher calling. Helping the sport to instill values. 

“All these kids have potential tobe better people,” he said.

The Saints lost 46-6 to the Seattle Stallions on the road Saturday, with Seattle scoring four times off turnovers. The loss drops the Saints to 2-8 (1-7 in NWFL play), while Seattle is now 7-1. The Saints host Renton this Saturday at 6 p.m. at Silverdale Stadium.

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