MOBILE, Alabama — The weekend of May 8th – 10th will be the biggest day for approximately 250 collegiate athletes when they hear their names called and are drafted to play professional football in the National Football League. Every kid who straps on a helmet and plays peewee football dreams of having the opportunity to play in the NFL but only a few will see the dream become reality.
Jon Halapio is going to be one of those kids. Through years of hard work and dedication he has put himself in a position to play football at the highest level. Over the next 100 or so days, Halapio will play in the Senior Bowl, workout for coaches, attend Florida’s pro day and the NFL Combine and he’s agreed to open the doors and let Gator Country join him for the ride.
In our first installment, we interviewed Halapio about going through his senior season while battling injuries and losses, what went into his decision to picking an agent and training facility and the news that he and his fiancé (Sierra Chouinard) will be having their first child in a few short months.
A difficult senior campaign
You battled a pretty serious pectoral injury and the team wasn’t as successful in 2013 as they had been during your previous four years. What was it like to go through all of that?
Jon Halapio: “It was very hard, I’m not gonna lie. Especially week after week losing, especially with me playing at, I want to say 80 percent the whole season. It was very frustrating. At the time we had Coach (Tim) Davis and he was doing a good job of just holding the o-line and holding me together. I just tried to keep up everything and be that solid rock of the offensive line and of the offense.”
How much did the injury affect you?
“I wasn’t that healthy. I was probably 80 percent the whole year. I just had to play through the injury and the pain. I had to do the same thing that I did in 2012 but I just had to fight through the pain. That’s pretty much it.”
That long, trying season ended on Senior Day, your final game in orange and blue, the last opportunity to run out of the south end zone as a Gator. What was that day like?
“I was very sad. Man I was crying the whole pregame, Coach Davis was telling me to stop crying but I couldn’t stop crying. It hit me. It didn’t hit me until I put my pads on and we came out for pregame. It didn’t hit me that it was going to be the last time that I did those things as a Gator and in The Swamp. When I came out and saw my fiancé and my parents I just broke down.”
You and some of the team stayed around for the alma mater after the loss. What was that like to be apart of one last time?
“It was good. I really enjoyed it. It was hard to soak everything in at that moment because we lost and I really wanted to win against FSU. Just the whole exiting Florida thing but I really enjoyed it.”
Do you know the words?
“No I don’t, I have to read it.”
You know the veterans on whichever team drafts you are going to make you sing it for them, right?[Laughing] “Yeah, that’s what I heard. I’m practicing.”
Picking an agent
We spoke to you shortly after you graduated and you hadn’t picked an agent at that time. What went into that decision and how did you land with your agency?
“What led to it was everybody was hitting me up on my phone and Facebook. I don’t know how anybody got my number; I guess it’s just word of mouth and connections. I basically just sat down with the ones that I was most interested in and the ones that were most interested in me and I was picking and choosing from there.”
What was the most important thing you were looking for in an agent? What did they need to bring to the table?
“The main thing was the after football life. What are you willing to do for me after my career is done. I signed with Audie Attaar. He just sold me on the whole career-planning thing after football. He was the only one that brought it up.”
You’re with Proactive Sports in California. How did you wind up all the way the way across the country?
“My cousin was telling me about this place called Proactive Sports and Duke Lemmons trained there. I asked him about it and then when I actually went out there to look for myself, everything matched up to what Duke and my cousin had told me. It’s not a big place but it’s small and a lot of explosive work. I felt like the part of my game that I needed to work on as an offensive linemen was to be more explosive. I fell in love with Ryan Capretta and the whole training staff and I like the physical therapy setup. The head trainer is Tito and I do physical therapy every single do and I’m getting better.
“I’ve been getting physical therapy on my pec and improving my flexibility.”
Senior Bowl Opportunity
Your career at Florida earned you the opportunity to showcase here in Mobile for NFL scouts, coaches and general managers. What does this opportunity mean to you?
“I just want to regain my whole season from whatever doubt any team has about me with my pec, to prove myself. I just want to show that I’m healthy and I can play football. There’s a reason why they invited me to come to the senior bowl.”
You’ve been here less than a day and you’ve already talked to about 10 teams. What are you looking forward to most this week?
“I’m looking forward to the practices. Being coached by the Jaguars and practicing in front of all these scouts and NFL coaches. I’m really looking forward to that.”
After this week, you’ll head back to California. What do you have planned as far as training from the time you get back until the NFL combine?
“From now to the combine I’m just really focusing on continuing to be healthy. I have to keep reminding myself not to rush the progress and the progression that I’ve made. If I’m going to be dumb tough, I don’t want to tear my pec again by just putting up a whole bunch a weight on the bench.”
Baby on the way
How did you find out that your fiancé, Sierra Chouinard, was pregnant?
“Well she thought that she was late so the Thursday before the Tennessee game I wanted to show her that she wasn’t pregnant. So we went to take the test together, went to CVS, came home and found out that she was pregnant. That was the longest night of my life.”
I know you’re happy and excited now but what was your initial thought process when you read the result?
“I was scared. I was scared because I never pictured being a father this early. We definitely weren’t planning on it and I was scared. Once it started to settle in I started to get excited, motivated and encouraged, all of the above.”
How is Sierra doing planning the wedding and everything while you are out in California working towards your future together?
“She’s back in St. Pete, in Florida. We’re getting married on February 1. She’s been back at home planning the wedding and everything with her family and my family. I wanted her to stay home and be comfortable and we didn’t want me to have any distractions while I was out in California. That was another reason why I went so far away, so I can be focused on everything and just experience new things. I have confidence that her family and my family will support her very well.”
Do you two have a due date for the baby?
“May 18. We’re having a baby girl. Her name will be Savannah. Savannah Halapio.
That’s too bad you won’t have another o-linemen who can carry on #DaGut for you.[laughing] “No, well, she could be an o-lineman”
So you have the wedding kind of in the middle of your training. How do you fit that into everything else you need to do and what are your plans after February 1?
“What will end up happening is I’ll fly back to California for a couple of days. Fly to Florida for the wedding and back to California with her for two weeks. She flies back to Florida and I fly to Indianapolis for the combine and then I have pro day in March.”