Former River Falls High School two-time all-state lineman Tiano Pupungatoa took the field for the start of Minnesota Vikings training camp Tuesday, July 23 after being signed by the team a day earlier.
Pupungatoa, a 6-foot, 3-inch offensive lineman out of the University of South Dakota, was one of 37 Viking rookies and select veterans who will practice Tuesday through Thursday at TCO Performance Center in Blaine before all other players report for the first full-squad practice Friday.
Pupungatoa was signed by the Vikings after the team released running back Roc Thomas, whom the NFL suspended last week for the first three games of the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
A 2013 graduate of River Falls High School, Pupungatoa spent the 2013-14 academic year at the United States Military Academic Preparatory School in West Point. He enrolled at South Dakota State University in 2015 and a year later made a successful transition from the defensive side of the ball to the offensive line where he was a three-year starter at guard, earning Associated Press Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) All-American third team honors and Missouri Valley Football All-Conference first team honors in 2018.
He was a member of a Jackrabbit offense that set school records in averaging 42.5 points and 480.5 total offensive yards per game in 2018, helping the team to a 10-3 overall record and its seventh straight postseason appearance. SDSU lost to eventual FCS national champion North Dakota State University in the national semifinals and finished third in both major FCS final polls.
After being undrafted, Pupungatoa attended Vikings and Arizona Cardinals rookie minicamps in May on a tryout basis and was signed by the Vikings after passing a physical Monday.
At River Falls, Pupungatoa earned all-state honors twice in both football and track and field. He was a two-time state qualifier in the shot put and finished seventh at state in the discus as a senior. He holds the Wildcat school record in the indoor shot put with a throw of 53 feet, 2 inches in 2013.