PALMER — Junior Aumavae is enjoying life as a member of the New York Jets, and the former Palmer High School star is doing everything he can to stay a part of the National Football League organization.
Aumavae, a defensive lineman, recorded two tackles, including one for a loss, during a 37-13 preseason win over Jacksonville last Saturday.
It marked the second straight game the 2004 Palmer High graduate recorded a tackle for a loss.
“Every opportunity I get, I go out there and take advantage of it,” Aumavae said by cellphone Sunday evening. “I’m feeling pretty good about going out there and playing. I’m very thankful they’re giving me an opportunity to go out and play. It’s just a blessing.”
Aumavae has appeared in both preseason games for the Jets (1-1). He lined up for seven snaps during a 26-17 loss to Detroit in his NFL debut, and recorded a tackle. Saturday, he played for 10 snaps against Jacksonville.
“Two games, two tackles for losses. I’m just thankful they’re giving me an opportunity,” Aumavae said.
Aumavae is currently listed at third on the depth chart at nose tackle, according to the team’s website, behind veterans Kenrick Ellis and Damon Harrison. Ellis is out with an injury and did not play against Jacksonville. Harrison was on the field for 40 defensive plays against the Jaguars, seeing the second-most time of any NY defensive lineman. Rookie Sheldon Richardson appeared in 41 plays. Defensive end Leger Douzable was on the field for 16 plays. Aumavae saw the fourth-most snaps in the unit. Harrison, a William Penn University product who signed as an undrafted free agent in 2012, suited up for five games last year, but did not record a tackle. Ellis, a third-year pro from Hampton, has started four games and made 25 career tackles in 17 games.
Aumavae, who was signed by the Jets on March 1, is working for a chance to be a member of the team’s 53-man regular-season roster.
NFL teams must reduce their roster to a maximum of 75 players by 4 p.m. EST on Aug. 27 and must cut to 53 players by 6 p.m. EST on Aug. 31.
“I feel good about how I compete, how I go out there and show what I can do. As far as making the roster, I’ll do whatever I can to make the team. I’m taking advantage of every opportunity they’re giving me,” Aumavae said.
This is not Aumavae’s first shot at making an NFL club. He spent a portion of the 2010 offseason with the Dallas Cowboys, but was released just before the preseason.
Aumavae said he is much more prepared this time around.
“I feel like I have a lot better chance now,” Aumavae said.
Aumavae, a standout defensive tackle at Division II Western Washington and Minnesota State-Mankato, caught the eye of the Jets while training with Scotty Smith of Don Beebe’s House of Speed in Green Bay, Wisc., where he played professional indoor football for the Green Bay Blizzard. Aumavae said all of the work he put in made him a stronger and faster player, and has allowed him to play multiple positions along the defensive front. Aumavae’s primary position is nose tackle. But he’s also able to be used in the three technique and five technique in a defensive formation. A three technique lines him up on the outside shoulder of a guard, while a five technique would line him up on the outside shoulder of a tackle.
“It’s paid off a lot,” Aumavae said of the work. “Most of my snaps are at nose tackle. But being able to work three technique and some five technique is a big plus for me.”
Aumavae was a three-year varsity player for the Moose and was named first-team all-state on offense and defense as a junior and senior. He helped Palmer win a conference title in 2003.
The Jets continue their preseason Saturday at 4 p.m. AST against the New York Giants. Their final preseason game is Aug. 29 against Philadelphia.
“I’m learning, taking advantage of every opportunity, doing everything I can to be a pro,” Aumavae said as was watching game film of the Jets’ next opponent, the Giants. “It’s an awesome experience. It’s everything (I thought it would be) and more.”