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Jags shockingly select Cal DT Alualu at No. 10; Henderson exiting?

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Defensive tackle Tyson Alualu probably won't help the Jaguars sell a single season ticket. Even his family and friends are seemingly too far away to boost attendance.

He could improve the team's pathetic pass rush, though, and that's all the Jaguars say they really want.

The Jaguars selected Alualu with the 10th pick in the NFL draft Thursday night, a surprising move for a franchise that desperately needs someone to bolster sagging ticket sales.

"I've had a lot of questions about him at No. 10, and I completely understand it," Jaguars general manager Gene Smith said. "I am not trying to win a popularity contest. I understand that people are going to have questions. I'm about winning a Super Bowl."

Did Jaguars reach for Alualu?

The consensus among

NFL Network analysts was that Tyson Alualu was a second-round draft pick, a drastic gap from where the Jaguars selected him at

No. 10 overall. **More ...**

The Jaguars, coming off a 7-9 season in which they had a league-worst 14 sacks, believe Alualu could help get them there.

The 6-foot-2, 295-pound Hawaiian and former University of California standout will compete for the starting job that two-time Pro Bowl pick John Henderson has occupied the last eight seasons. Smith indicated the Jaguars would entertain trade offers for Henderson, seemingly ready to part ways with him in exchange for an extra draft pick this weekend.

"I'll certainly listen to what anybody has to say around the NFL regarding any of our players," Smith said. "It doesn't mean we're going to do something, but certainly you have dialogue with teams. When the draft concludes, we'll be on the phone with every team in the NFL seeing what they're thinking and sharing some of our thoughts.

"I'm open to whatever consideration may help this football team get better over the next few days."

Even if it means getting rid of the guy who has been a stalwart in the middle of Jacksonville's defense for nearly a decade?

"He's a guy that has a good reputation around the NFL." Smith said. "We're going to do calls and keep an open mind to what other teams are saying. Certainly we have a lot of considerations we can go through with the remainder of tonight and into the early morning hours. We'll listen to anything."

Alualu started 39 of 51 games at Cal and finished with 16 sacks and 190 tackles. He played defensive end as a senior, but Smith and coach Jack Del Rio envision him playing alongside second-year player Terrance Knighton for the future -- maybe even giving the Jaguars the kind of tackle tandem that Henderson and Marcus Stroud did for years.

"I definitely want to come in and compete, whether it's another rookie or another vet," Alualu said. "I want to compete to get on that field and be a starter and contribute to the team anyway possible. I don't want to disappoint anybody. I'm definitely ready to come in and compete and try to earn that spot."

But he's probably not going to be a huge draw.

The Jaguars had nine of 10 home games blacked out on local television last season and could have used some star power to sell season tickets and avoid more television blackouts. But Florida cornerback Joe Haden, Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain and Clemson running back C.J. Spiller went in the three picks before Jacksonville came up.

Maybe making matters worse, the Denver Broncos traded down from No. 11 and selected local icon Tim Tebow with the 25th pick.

Any of those four guys would have been well-received selections in the River City, but a defensive tackle from the West Coast whose name was hardly mentioned in any first-round mock draft and certainly not in the top 10?

"That's not my goal, to be bold," Smith said. "My goal is to improve the roster, acquiring the best talent with the right kind of character and competitiveness that it takes to win at the highest level."

Alualu, one of 19 children raised in a Polynesian culture that centers on family, seemingly fits the bill. He is married, has two children, features a nonstop motor and a 35-inch vertical and was a team captain. He even celebrated his selection by attending church.

"The more work we did, the stronger we felt about him," Smith said.

Alualu was "shocked" to receive the call from the Jaguars. He was convinced he was going to the New England Patriots late in the first round or early in the second. He has never been to Florida and knows little about the Jaguars. But he surely knows what he brings to the table.

"Just my relentless pursuit from snap to whistle, just giving effort every down," Alualu said. "I established myself as a good run-stopper, but every time there was passing situations, I definitely gave it my all, got after the quarterback and harassed the quarterback."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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