Dalvin Tomlinson looks like a prototypical NFL defensive tackle prospect, but when you talk to him, any preconceived notions you may have had suddenly vanish.
Tomlinson was a key part of Alabama’s defensive line over the past three seasons, but he’s more than just a talented football player who’s getting ready to join the NFL. He’s also an artist and a musician and a three-time state champion in wrestling who also played soccer and ran track in high school.
The pre-draft process has been hectic for Tomlinson, but he’s trying to savor every moment of the experience.
“I loved doing the interviews with different teams and meeting new people, meeting the coaches, and just see how they see football, a different aspect,” Tomlinson told SB Nation. “I get to come back to Bama right now and train here … and just continue to get better during this offseason.”
Tomlinson exudes intelligence and maturity. That’s why it was a bit surprising to learn that he wasn’t necessarily calm, cool, and collected before meeting with teams at the combine.
“I get nervous before every meeting because you pretty much don’t know how it’s going to go before you go in there,” Tomlinson said. “So I always get some butterflies in my stomach before I go into meetings. But I feel like it’s good to be nervous before you get ready to do something. It shows that you actually care for it.”
Tomlinson didn’t let a little anxiety keep him from enjoying his situation, though.
“It’s pretty exciting when I get in there and then the coaches know a lot about you and they start asking you questions and things, and I just be myself and answer them truthfully and just enjoy it,” Tomlinson said.
Tomlinson is a Renaissance man
Tomlinson has a passion for art and music, and both are things he continues to pursue in his free time, limited as it is right now.
His interest in art developed at a young age. His older brother had a knack for drawing, and Tomlinson wanted to do everything his brother did. But his parents, who are both deceased now, also fostered Tomlinson’s love of art.
“My dad also used to write my mom love letters and used to draw animated pictures on the envelopes he sent her,” Tomlinson said.
He uses many different materials and continues to try new things with his art.
“I like to use pencils for the most part,” Tomlinson said. “Then I also like colored pencils and comic markers.
“I’m trying painting, trying to get better at that.”
Tomlinson is also a musician, and an evolving one at that.
“In middle school and high school, I played trumpet and I knew how to play all the percussion instruments, like drums — snare drum, bass drum, xylophone,” Tomlinson said. “And I’m trying to teach myself how to play guitar and piano.”
Tomlinson was also a stellar student and had the opportunity to go to Harvard. As his mother was dying of complications from diabetes, she helped him make the decision to go to Alabama, and Tomlinson believes it was the right choice for him.
“The academic standpoint is always just, Harvard is just Harvard. It’s one of those schools that you just want to go to because it’s Harvard,” Tomlinson said. “And I’m glad I came (to Alabama). I got my degrees while I was here and everything, and I got to play on one of the best dynasties ever in college football.”
Wrestling, track, and soccer made him a well-rounded DT
Tomlinson has the size and athleticism to excel as a defensive tackle, but participating in sports other than football has made him a complete lineman.
He won the state wrestling heavyweight title three consecutive times in high school. The skills he developed in wrestling helped Tomlinson understand what it takes to get the best of offensive linemen on every play.
“In wrestling, you have to control another person, and in football, on the defensive line side, you also have to do the same thing,” Tomlinson said.
Wrestling also helped Tomlinson fine-tune his technique.
“And another thing was hand placement, because in wrestling you have to learn where to put your hands to make certain moves work and different grappling techniques and things like that,” Tomlinson said. “And in football, it helps me learn how to make sure my hands are always inside so I can have the best control over somebody else if I’m trying to get in a certain gap and things like that.”
Those weren’t the only benefits Tomlinson reaped from his wrestling experience.
“And the biggest thing from wrestling, I would say, was the mental aspect from it,” Tomlinson said. “Because it’s mostly a mental sport because you have to think two to three moves ahead of the person you’re going against, and also it’s going to push you past your limit.”
Tomlinson is a big guy, and football is a physically taxing sport. He also played goalie on his high school soccer team and ran track to keep his physical conditioning at its peak in the offseason.
“They were sports I did during that part of the year to keep my cardio when football conditioning hadn’t started at my high school yet,” Tomlinson said. So I felt like I just did those sports to make sure my cardio didn’t fall off or I didn’t get too fat and things like that — just to stay active, for the most part.”
Tomlinson is ready for the NFL and for life after it
After three seasons under Nick Saban at Alabama, Tomlinson feels he’s ready for the NFL.
“Coach Saban coaches like a pro-style team for the most part when it comes to the meetings and recovery schedules and things like that,” Tomlinson said. “It’s almost like a pro-style organization already.”
Tomlinson is projected to be drafted as high as the second round, and he could be a valuable piece of his new team’s defensive line from day one.
He’s not just ready for the NFL, either.
Tomlinson has things mapped out beyond his football career. He has two bachelor’s degrees from Bama, one in finance and one in financial planning, and he’s looking toward the banking sector when his playing days are done.
“I just finished my financial planning bachelor’s in December,” Tomlinson said. “But after football, either I want to be a financial adviser or a financial planner, or I want to go into the banking side and work in the banking area. So those are the top two things I have right now before football starts and everything.”
Right now, Tomlinson is ready to embrace the next phase of his life and begin his NFL career. Whichever team lands Tomlinson will be getting a balanced defensive tackle who could contribute right away on the field — and a fascinating man off it.