Talanoa Hufanga's playoff heroics prove USC alum is exceeding expectations in NFL

San Francisco 49ers safety Talanoa Hufanga (29) is excelling at the NFL level after a great career with USC football.
San Francisco 49ers safety Talanoa Hufanga (29) is excelling at the NFL level after a great career with USC football. / Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin /

Talanoa Hufanga was a monster with USC football, but he was supposed to be just a 'tweener' who can't succeed at the next level, right?

Right, that's what the pundits all said. And the pundits certainly have some explaining to do when it comes to their evaluations of the 2020 First-Team All-American USC safety.

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They said that being 6'0," 200 pounds would be too big for a safety (makes no sense as he was the best one in the college game), but too small for a linebacker. They decided that because he was bigger and stronger than most safeties, he can apparently not play the position. Trust me, I was just as confused as you were.

And sure enough, Hufanga is really outplaying his fifth round draft pick status. He played in 15 games this season (got three starts) for one of the top four teams in football; recording 32 tackles and a couple of PD's. His greatest mark on this season however, was when it mattered most in the postseason:

USC football alumni Talanoa Hufanga returned a blocked punt for a touchdown in the NFL Playoffs.

The great USC football safety, Talanoa Hufanga changed the course of the postseason for his current NFL team. The San Francisco 49ers were down seven with under five minutes left to play. The offense had scored just three points all game; it was not a safe bet to plan on the O scoring to tie the game.

When the punt was blocked, Hufanga knew it was go time. He showed great awareness, picked it up on a clean scoop and tied the ballgame for his squad. Putting pressure on Green Bay, the sudden momentum change led to the Niners shutting Green Bay down on defense and then hitting a game-winning field goal.

Hufanga truly changed the game, and altered the trajectory of the franchise's season. It's similar to what he did at SC. He played here at a tough point in USC history, and he made watching this team fun.

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In times of doubt, he was there to carry this team in 2020. And in a major time of doubt in the NFL, when they said he couldn't survive with his new team, he is what kept his new team surviving.