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Senior Bowl Interview: Notre Dame’s LB Marist Liufau fits Browns NFL draft needs

All-Star game showcases young talent

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 31 Reese’s Senior Bowl Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Have you seen the list of free agents for the Cleveland Browns this year? The size alone is baffling, but look at how many linebackers are listed.

What will be the end result of this room? Anthony Walker cannot remain healthy. Neither can Jacob Phillips. Sione Takitaki should be re-signed and Matthew Adams was signed as a special teams ace. Jordan Kunaszyk is also a very good special teamer but has been inserted into the base defense as well. Are the Browns really going to not retain five linebackers?

Maybe a young guy who can start right away is in order. Liufau had plenty of college experience and is productive. Plus, he will be sitting there in Round 3 so the price is right.

LB Marist Liufau – Notre Dame

6’-2”, 239 pounds

Projected round: 3

DBN: What are some things you wanted to prove to scouts?

Liufau: Mainly working on my alignment. Getting in the best position to align myself to help the run game. I am effective in the passing lanes and getting after the quarterback as well whether it is a blitz or run fit.

DBN: What is one aspect of your game that you like?

Liufau: Something that I really enjoy is getting on the running back on passing plays. And then getting on when they pass protect. I think that provides a lot of opportunities to get on the quarterback. I can take advantage of that and wreak havoc in the backfield.

DBN: You are not an EDGE rusher although you have lined up as an EDGE.

Liufau: I am a linebacker. I am willing to do whatever I need to do at the next level to help my team. That is whether as an inside backer or playing on the edge. Or being a versatile inside backer who sometimes goes up on the edge. My focus is being able to do more things that are beneficial to the defense. It is a different game on the edge than it is inside.

DBN: What will an NFL team get when they draft you?

Liufau: A physical, dominant presence on the field who is going to be a leader who is used to calling the defense. I pride myself on being a veteran leader. I am able to show what is correct and what I expect of them.

DBN: You had a bad ankle injury back in 2021. What was the rehab process?

Liufau: Well first of all it hurt a lot. I actually put it back in place right after it happened. My foot was a little off and I just kind of moved it back into where it was supposed to be. I also broke my fibula so I was rehabbing both. A lot of my rehab was getting my calf stronger and working on the little muscles around my ankle. The surgery was meant to make it tighter and stable. There is no soreness.

Notre Dame v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

DBN: How much different was it playing linebacker at the college level than back home in Honolulu, Hawai’i?

Liufau: At Notre Dame, my position coach taught me how to play free. His philosophy was to let us play free, read, and react. That works better when you have the speed to get to a spot. Then you learn so much about the game. Little things here and there that I never thought about. I have learned the defense as a whole instead of just my job on the field. That has helped me in my football IQ.

DBN: Is the linebacker really the quarterback of the defense?

Liufau: I would agree with that. The defense will go as the linebackers go. You have to get the guys up front lined up and get the back seven ready on every play. It is my job to communicate with both.


DBN: What do you see yourself doing after you have hung up your cleats?

Liufau: There are so many things that come to mind. I feel dealing with the next level is what my focus should be. I just personally take it day by day.

DBN: What is your first memory of visiting Notre Dame?

Liufau: When I first visited it was dark and snowy and cold. I just remember the dome lit up driving down Notre Dame Avenue.

Notre Dame v NC State Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

DBN: What is your goal to get better prepared this off-season?

Liufau: To get more comfortable in whatever defense I am now a part of. I bring a lot of energy to the room. I try to be a combination of a leader and a strength on the defense. I want to set an example. My expectations are to be a big role on the defensive side and get the communication set. My preparation and attention to detail is what has made me play better.

DBN: What do you need to clean up before hitting training camp?

Liufau: The way I respond to different situations. There is always a standard of play like that. Moving forward, more disciplined.

DBN: What is one thing someone needs to make sure they do while in Hawai’i?

Liufau: You have to go to Pearl Harbor. And then do a Bar-B-Q with family on the beach. Marinate your food the night before and spend some time just chilling out with good food thrown on the grill with a day at the beach.