Jahlani Tavai will be keeping a closer eye than normal on the NFL Draft later this week.
After all, the New England Patriots linebacker has some personal connections to the event: two of his brothers, Jonah and Justus, are trying to make the jump to the pro level.
“I have two younger brothers entering the draft this year,” Tavai explained at a Patriots Foundation community event on Monday (via patriots.com’s Alexandra Francisco). “They both play at San Diego State University, and both play defensive line.”
Coming out of Mira Costa High School in California and playing both football and rugby growing up, Jonah and Justus also entered college alongside one another. But while the two attended El Camino College in 2018, their paths split the following year: Jonah moved on to San Diego State, while Justus joined Hawai’i.
The fourth and fifth of six Tavai brothers to play football for a Division I school — the sixth is still in high school, by the way — they developed into reliable if not necessarily star players for their respective teams in their three seasons apart. By 2022, however, they had joined forces once again: Justus transferred within the Mountain West Conference to reunite with Jonah at San Diego State.
A year later, their journey might now be taking them to the NFL. Their way into the league will almost certainly look different than their older brother’s, though.
Whereas Jahlani was a second-round draft pick by the Detroit Lions in 2019, who moved to New England in 2021 and signed a two-year contract extension last November, neither Jonah nor Justus are expected to get drafted before late on Day 3, if even that. Nonetheless, there is a chance that teams might take a flier on them.
Could the Patriots be among the clubs showing interest in one or both of the Tavai brothers? That remains to be seen.
For now, however, Jahlani expressed his excitement for them and the possibility of sharing a field with them either as friend or foe.
“It would be cool to be able to suit up either against each other or with each other,” he said. “I’m just excited for them. This week I’m going to head back [to California] to celebrate them.”