Capitol Alert

Pro football player takes ‘leap of faith’ with Capitol internship

Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Christian Tupou, center, is finishing a month-long internship with state Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber.
Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Christian Tupou, center, is finishing a month-long internship with state Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber. akoseff@sacbee.com

While his teammates are busy training for the upcoming season, Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Christian Tupou is finishing up a month-long internship with state Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber.

The 26-year-old Sacramento native has been responding to constituents, attending committee hearings, and learning the ins and outs of California government.

“My NFL career is volatile. I’ve got to look for career #2,” said Tupou, who studied political science at the University of Southern California. “I can always train, but in terms of bettering myself...I just took a leap of faith.”

Tupou said the “team vibe” from football carries over to the Capitol, but he had to get used to “the grind of working these long hours.” He’s also gained a greater sense of responsibility and service to others.

“Football is a ‘me, me, me’ sport. And here it’s, ‘What can I do for you?’” Tupou said.

While his priority remains football, Tupou is open to returning to politics some day, perhaps even in elected office. He was particularly intrigued by the budget process – not only how much tax revenue California generates, but also all of the interests vying for the money.

One new law will be following him back to football field: Assembly Bill 202, signed this week by Gov. Jerry Brown, classifies cheerleaders as employees of professional sports teams, making them eligible for minimum wage and other labor protections.

“I’m all for it. They put in work,” Tupou said. “They’re out there on the field with us, too.”

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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