By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Ian Dulan worked himself into shape, and was ready to jump back into BYU’s starting lineup, after a redshirt season and two years spent on a Mormon mission, but he discovered that life sometimes takes unexpected turns.
The 2006 Kamehameha graduate injured his back during fall camp, and hasn’t seen any game action in his senior season for the Cougars (2-1), who play Boise State today on the road.
“I’ve got a bulging disk. It happened during fall camp and I either ruptured or herniated the disk,” Dulan said. “I don’t know how I hurt it. I hope to play soon at the ending of the season. I don’t feel too good. I can walk, but it’s better for me to sit. The pain bothers me when I sleep, and I sleep on the floor. It’s getting better. I’m doing more swimming and rehabilitation with the trainers.
“I stay at home games on the sidelines. It’s frustrating a little bit, but to me there’s a greater cause and that’s the program. It’s bigger than me or anybody or the team in general. You have to have that mindset and support your teammates and realize it’s not the end of the world.”
Unlike the average student-athlete, there are more things on his mind than maintaining his 3.0 grade-point average and getting back on the football field.
Dulan also works at the nearby Marriott Hotel and supports a growing family. He and his wife Gabrielle have a two-year-old son, Jensen. She is also two months pregnant. They recently married on June 1.
His sister Janell, a 2012 Waiakea graduate, is living with him and is also working at the Marriott. She is looking into playing college volleyball.
Despite the many hats he wears, Dulan has found the focus to pull in solid grades, and earn a starting role until his injury. But it hasn’t been easy.
“It’s been a lot of hard work, putting time in at school and managing my time to get good grades,” he said. “But it’s not about getting good grades, it’s applying the knowledge you learn from the university or community college and applying it to real life. In high school, I got a 3.9 GPA, but when I went to college I started below 3.0. I had a 2.5 GPA. I had to focus and refocus every time.”
The 6-foot-1, 270-pound defensive lineman will likely miss BYU’s home game against Hawaii on Friday, Sept. 28. At least, he got to travel with the team and watched the Cougars trounce the Warriors 41-20 last year at Aloha Stadium.
As a 17-year-old freshman, Dulan started five games. He started 12 of the team’s 13 games the next year, and saw action in 12 games as a junior.
Older and wiser, his life’s outlook has changed. Football took a tumble down the totem pole. He looks at things from a big-picture perspective.
“With my family, I really have a better understanding where my priorities lie,” he said. “My dream has always been to go play in the NFL. You learn a lesson to dream and that the sky is the limit. But if one dream fails, there’s another dream to achieve, and drive hard to reach that goal.”
Instead of returning for his 2009 senior season, Dulan decided to serve a two-year Latter-day Saints mission in Peoria, Ill.
“My thinking was to be more morally clean,” he said. “It was a learning and growing experience, just seeing change in people and how God can affect one soul to many souls, and that one man can make a difference.
“There were many memorable moments. I don’t remember all the words, but it’s the feeling I had of being important and helping others, giving my time and energy to help better someone else.
“There were emotional ups and downs, seeing people fail. There were also people with no hope and God provided a miracle, finding Jesus to live a better life. It was a good experience to see change in people. If they do channel their energy better, they can change from inside out not outside in.”
That also applies to Dulan, who said he found himself in debt, spending his scholarship money on frivolous things. After he got out of that small hole, he dug himself into another one. It was a lesson learned, not once but twice.
“Two time’s the charm and not again,” he said. “Every aspect of life you need balance and it interplays with you emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally. BYU has definitely been the perfect fit for me.
“Looking back on my entire life, it’s led me up to where I am today. I know I wouldn’t be the man I am today or have experienced the things in life whether it’s been good or bad.”
BYU has been to a bowl game the last seven seasons, winning the last three. The Cougars have three really tough games left: today against Boise State, at Notre Dame on Oct. 20 and at Georgia Tech on Oct. 27.
It’s that type of big-game action Dulan misses. He’s also part of a 29-member senior class. It’s been three long years since he’s been in a football game, hearing the celebrations of a packed house at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
“I miss the pain, blood, sweat, brotherhood and camaraderie with my fellow teammates,” he said. “I miss being in the moment, that electric moment, getting a sack and hearing the crowd roar and scream. You feel like you’re on top of the world.”
Then when the games end, everyone goes home. That’s when the real rewards start for Dulan. A hug from a two-year-old may seem like a small moment, but it is always priceless.
“The best thing about my life is my family, just having people who care about you, my own personal family,” he said. “Jensen is in his terrible two’s. He’s being a little scrappy and showing a little attitude here and there. He’s more outgoing than me.
“I want to teach him to be strong in the faith, respect women, especially his mother, and be a well-rounded human being. I’d like him to be athletic and smart and well off. I want to teach him all I can and all I know.”
To submit a collegiate athlete with Big Island ties for publication, email email@example.com