At 6'3" and 325 pounds, Sione "Bo" Pouha is what most would call a large, imposing figure. Well, they'd be right, but when the Jets' starting defensive tackle opens his mouth, he's a funny, relaxed and humble man who is just looking to make a difference on a team that has the chance to go to the Super Bowl.
Last season Pouha slid over to the nose tackle position when Kris Jenkins went down with his knee injury, but with Jenkins back, his role will be more varied.
"I just try to play where I fit in," Pouha said. "Having Jenks in there is like being upgraded to a penthouse suite in a hotel. It's always good to have him in there. When we're both going at the same time, it's always nice to know that he, Shaun Ellis and Mike DeVito are right beside me."
In his sixth season with the Jets, Pouha is coming off of his best season yet, in which he started 14 regular-season games and made 45 tackles. The 31-year-old Salt Lake City native honed his craft at the University of Utah before being selected by the Jets in the third round of the 2005 draft. Since then, he's had the opportunity to make a positive impression on his teammates, including offensive lineman Robert Turner.
"First of all, Bo's good at what he does," Turner said. "It takes a special person to actually be able to play a true nose. You're not seeing many true noses in the NFL. They may not be the fastest player or the most loose-hips guy, but it takes a lot to sit in there and take double and triple teams all the time. You have to give Bo credit."
Going every day against the physical Turner has been one way that Pouha has improved over the years, which is reflected in his technique and the likelihood that on every play there will be two offensive linemen trying to slow him down. That allows for big-time tacklers like David Harris, blitzers like Jim Leonhard and Eric Smith and free hitters like Bart Scott to run roughshod in space and create havoc around the line of scrimmage. "The Madbacker" talked about the assets Pouha brings to the table.
"It's his ability to take up two blockers," Scott said, "and getting better in the defense and more comfortable in the defense every play. Just holding up two blockers and the experience he has allows Jenkins to stay fresh."
Keeping a solid rotation going on the D-line will be crucial to the success of this Jets team. Getting a solid push from the defensive front means that they will have the ability to stop the run and pressure the quarterback in passing situations. As the Jets sacked No. 2 quarterback Mark Brunell three times in a row in today's practice, Pouha jokingly taunted wide receiver David Clowney, showing an unexpected, comedic side of his character.
"My personality is like a brotherly personality," he said. "I'm always there to pick up, always there to cheer somebody up. Sometimes someone might do the same thing to me, make fun of me or make light of the situation. This is serious that we're practicing, but we're making sure we have fun and go out there and do the best we can."
With a goatee and a menacing sneer on the football field, Pouha is an intimidating presence for guys like Nick Mangold and Turner to deal with on the inside. That aggressive, mean streak in the players in the trenches basically creates a fistfight on every play, which means hand position, leverage, staying on the snap count and proper footing are key.
Pouha has the ability to master those facets, but also a selfless attitude that Turner recognizes, because while "Big Bo" won't get high sack numbers, he is a catalyst for others to gain recognition.
"That's kind of the emphasis of what our team is," Turner said. "Rex always says, 'Are you a Jet?' You want to be a Jet-type player. That means sacrificing. So there's a lot more to it than just being big and swelling up and holding the crap out of a guy. There is an emphasis, and it takes its own specific skill set."
Pouha is still focused on perfecting his many talents. Through staying in the weightroom, continuing to learn the playbook and developing a complete knowledge of the scheme, he is becoming a team leader. A well-spoken man who completed a Mormon mission after college, he discussed his personal ambitions, while also commenting on the team's most pervasive and overarching aim.
"I think it's to become more of a graduate student of the game," Pouha said, "a more advanced learner and player of the defense that Rex has brought in. Last year we had kind of an introductory type thing. Now it's time to take it to the next level, use it to your advantage and go from there.
"Obviously our overall goal is to do whatever it takes to get us to that Super Bowl championship game, so whatever that entails, that's our number one goal."