Esera Tuaolo
No. 98, 95, 93
Position:Defensive tackle
Personal information
Born: (1968-07-11) July 11, 1968 (age 55)
Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.
Career information
High school:Chino (CA) Don Antonio Lugo
College:Oregon State
NFL draft:1991 / Round: 2 / Pick: 35
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Player stats at PFR

Esera Tavai Tuaolo (born July 11, 1968), nicknamed "Mr. Aloha", is an American former professional football player who was a defensive tackle for nine seasons in the National Football League (NFL).[1] He played college football for the Oregon State Beavers.

Football career

At Oregon State University, Tuaolo was a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.[citation needed] He won the Morris Trophy in 1989, which is given to the best defensive lineman in the Pac-10.[2] He was named Pac-10 Conference First-team twice and as a senior he was a finalist for the Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy.[2]

Tuaolo then had a successful career as a nose tackle in the NFL for nine seasons, playing for five NFL teams.[3] The Green Bay Packers drafted him in the 1991 NFL draft in the second round as the 35th overall pick.[4] He played 20 games for the Green Bay Packers from 1991 to 1992, was the first rookie in Packer history to start all 16 games in a season, and was a member of the 1991 all-rookie team.[5][6] Tuaolo then played 60 games for the Minnesota Vikings from 1992 to 1996; 6 games for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1997; 13 games for the Atlanta Falcons in 1998; and 12 games for the Carolina Panthers in 1999.[3][6] In his 9 year career he recorded 200 tackles, 12 sacks, and 1 interception, and, in 1998, won the NFC Championship with the Atlanta Falcons before losing in the Super Bowl to the Denver Broncos.[6][5][2] During that Super Bowl XXXIII, Tuaolo recorded the last tackle of football legend John Elway.

Music career

Tuaolo has entertained a singing career during and after football. While with the Packers, for example, Tuaolo once sang the National Anthem in full pads before a game against the Chicago Bears, and then immediately after started in that game.[7] He has since sung the anthem at professional sporting events, from NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA games to the opening ceremony of the Gay Games VII, a quadrennial Olympics-style event.[8][9] He has also released his own music, such as "Stronger" and "Another Broken Heart" the latter with Lari White, and has performed at various venues and events in the United States and Europe.[10][11]

The Voice

In 2017, he auditioned for season 13 of The Voice singing "Rise Up" from Andra Day.[12] Two of the four judges, Jennifer Hudson and Blake Shelton turned their chair. Tuaolo chose to be on Team Blake. In the Battle round he was paired with Team Blake contestant Rebecca Brunner, both singing "This I Promise You" from NSYNC. Coach Shelton chose Tuaolo to go to the Knockouts round.

In the Knockouts, he confronted Adam Cunningham. Tuaolo sang "Superstar" from Delaney & Bonnie made famous by The Carpenters and also famously covered by Luther Vandross. Coach Shelton opted to keep Tuaolo for the playoff round, eliminating Cunningham from his team.[13]

On the Playoffs broadcast on November 13, 2017, he sang "How Do I Live" from LeAnn Rimes. Blake Shelton, being forced to pick only three of his team's six finalists, chose to exclude Tuaolo from his final three, thus eliminating Tuaolo from the competition.

Personal life

Tuaolo is of Samoan descent.[14] In 2002, having retired from sports in 1999, Tuaolo announced to the public that he is gay, coming out on HBO's Real Sports.[15][16] This made him the third former NFL player to come out, after David Kopay and Roy Simmons. Another NFL player, Garrison Hearst, made anti-gay comments when he heard the news, but he later apologized.[17][18]

Tuaolo met his partner, Mitchell Wherley, at a nightclub in 1995, and the couple hid their relationship from the public.[19] Between Tuaolo's retirement from the NFL and coming out as gay, he and Wherley adopted twin infants. a boy and a girl.[20] Tuaolo and Wherley's relationship ended in 2007.[21]

Since coming out, Tuaolo has been a strong advocate for the LGBT community. He has worked with the NFL to combat homophobia in the league and is a board member of the Gay and Lesbian Athletics Foundation.[5][22] Tuaolo has testified at the Minnesota state legislature Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in opposition to an anti-gay marriage bill.[23] He makes and has made appearances on various television programs, including The Oprah Winfrey Show,[24] The Tyra Banks Show, Good Morning America and The Ellen DeGeneres Show,[25] to talk about and combat homophobia.[26][27] Tuaolo's current LGBT advocacy primarily involves speaking at colleges and corporations about the pervasiveness of homophobia and helping organizational leaders create a fair and safe environment for their members and employees.[28][29][30]

Tuaolo's autobiography, Alone in the Trenches: My Life As a Gay Man in the NFL, was released in spring 2006.[31] It details Tuaolo's upbringing, and sheds light on how his experiences with poverty, sexuality, and football shaped him.[32]

See also


  1. ^ "Esera Tuaolo Career Stats". Retrieved November 29, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c "DT Esera Tuaolo, Oregon State. 1989 | The Morris Trophy". The Morris Trophy. Retrieved August 10, 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Esera Tuaolo Stats |". Retrieved August 9, 2017.
  4. ^ "1991 NFL Draft Listing". Retrieved May 7, 2023.
  5. ^ a b c "Esera Tuaolo Addresses Rookies At NFL Symposium". Outsports. Retrieved August 9, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c "Esera Tuaolo". Retrieved August 9, 2017.
  7. ^ Tuaolo, Esera (2006). Alone in the Trenches: My Life as a Gay Man in the NFL. p. 107.
  8. ^ "Esera Tuaolo sings National Anthem at Packer game". Outsports. Retrieved August 10, 2017.
  9. ^ "Esera Tuaolo |". Retrieved August 10, 2017.
  10. ^ Reed, William F. "Esera Tuaolo". Retrieved August 9, 2017.
  11. ^ Lacey, Ryan (September 20, 2015). "Esera Tuaolo: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Retrieved August 10, 2017.
  12. ^ "Former NFL player wows judges on 'The Voice' with emotional song". September 26, 2017. Retrieved November 29, 2021.
  13. ^ "Esera Tuaolo wins his Knockout round on #TheVoice". Outsports. Retrieved June 19, 2023.
  14. ^ "A Gay Football Player, 'Alone in the Trenches'". Weekend Edition Sunday. February 5, 2006. Archived from the original on February 10, 2006. Retrieved October 22, 2020.
  15. ^ Buzinski, Jim (2002), "Sports: Gay Male",, archived from the original on August 14, 2007, retrieved August 19, 2007
  16. ^ Buzinski, Jim (September 15, 2011). "Moment #16: Esera Tuaolo comes out". Outsports. Retrieved September 11, 2023.
  17. ^ "Hearst Doesn't Want 'Faggots' in Locker Room". Archived from the original on June 26, 2008.
  18. ^ "49ers' Hearst retreats from gay slur". Archived from the original on December 6, 2004. Retrieved December 24, 2019.
  19. ^ Donegan, Lawrence (May 4, 2003). "The Outcast". The Observer. Retrieved February 15, 2023 – via The Guardian.
  20. ^ "Tackling Football's Closet". The Advocate. November 12, 2002. Retrieved February 13, 2023.
  21. ^ "Esera Tuaolo Arrested on Domestic Assault Charges". The Advocate. June 27, 2010. Retrieved February 13, 2023.
  22. ^ "GLAF". Retrieved August 10, 2017.
  23. ^ Ruth, David (April 5, 2006), "We are all children of God",, archived from the original on August 12, 2007, retrieved February 16, 2013
  24. ^ "The Gay NFL Player Who Struggled to Come Out | The Oprah Winfrey Show". YouTube. January 4, 2019. Retrieved November 29, 2021.
  25. ^ "'The Voice' Finalist Esera Tuaolo Performs". YouTube. November 14, 2017. Retrieved November 29, 2021.
  26. ^ "Faces of Sports: Esera Tuaolo Continues to Give Back". Compete Network. Retrieved August 10, 2017.
  27. ^ "Former NFL Player Speaks Out on Being Gay". ABC News. January 6, 2006. Retrieved August 10, 2017.
  28. ^ "Convocation: Esera Tuaolo". Convocations, Carleton College. Archived from the original on August 9, 2017. Retrieved August 10, 2017.
  29. ^ "Gay Man in the NFL". March 6, 2006. Retrieved August 10, 2017.
  30. ^ "OSU alum Tuaolo to speak at OSU about NFL, life as gay athlete | News and Research Communications | Oregon State University". Archived from the original on August 10, 2017. Retrieved August 10, 2017.
  31. ^ "A Gay Football Player, 'Alone in the Trenches'". NPR. Retrieved September 11, 2023.
  32. ^ "Alone in the Trenches: My Life as a Gay Man in the NFL (LGBTQ+ Sports Memoir) - Esera Tuaolo; John Rosengren: 9781402209239 - AbeBooks". Retrieved June 19, 2023.