Weep not for Willie Tuitama. He was a highly touted prospect when he committed to the Arizona Wildcats back in 2004, and he had a super-productive career with the ‘Cats, racking up well over 9,000 yards through the air and 67 TDs.
But Tuitama wasn’t drafted, something that may have something to do with his “extreme DUI” arrest a few weeks before the draft (special note to marketing majors: that it’s an “Extreme” DUI does not mean it’s spicy or comes with extra cheese). So now instead of living the life on an NFL rookie, he’s doing the next best thing - if by “next best” we mean “worst imaginable” - working at a local Buffalo Wild Wings as a server.
The conversations started with a whisper. A customer in the sports bar would ask his waiter if the employee across the room — the guy who looked eerily like the Arizona Wildcats’ all-time leading passer — really was Willie Tuitama.
Inevitably, the waiter would nod. The customer would approach Tuitama, once the UA’s star quarterback and now Tucson’s most famous waiter.
[After going undrafted] Tuitama went home to Stockton, Calif., for the summer. He returned to Tucson to take four fall semester classes and even got a job at Buffalo Wild Wings on Irvington Road near I-19.
“It’s weird,” Tuitama said of the transition from BMOC to an employee at BW3. “You have so much time on your hands when you’re used to having such a strict schedule. When you go to not having to do that, at first you get lazy — because it’s so easy to.”
At the very least, Tuitama deserves credit for simply staying in school; unless his fortunes suddenly turn around and he becomes a starting QB in the NFL for several years, he’s obviously going to have to work. Y’know, like the rest of us. It’s at least good that he’s not calling this waiting a “career.”
Further, it’s not like the NFL has an awesome track record of immediately recognizing future talent behind center. For every Manning brother or Carson Palmer, there’s multiple players who were drafted in the 5th round or later - or even went undrafted - before working their way up to successful starting QB; we counted 9 starting in the NFL today, plus successful journeymen like Jeff Garcia who’s currently a backup.
It seems surprising - though it’s probably due to the DUI, for which Tuitama eventually pled to a misdemeanor DUI charge - that Tuitama didn’t at least get a look from the CFL to start playing right away instead of explaining to customers why there’s no napkin dispensers at their table and they only get one with their food. (Seriously, BW3, what in the hell is up with that? Wings are for making messes.)
So if his path to success goes through the CFL - or hell, even stops there - then so be it, because it’s rarely the rookie deal years that define a good quarterback’s career, it’s the ones that happen after they’ve earned their team’s trust and real financial backing.
But enough of the lecture. Where the hell are my wings?