Tuaolo, who is of Samoan ancestry, was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, and was raised in poverty in a banana-farming family in Waimanalo. His father died when Tuaolo was ten years of age.
He played college football at Oregon State University and was a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. He won the Morris Trophy in 1989, which is given to the best defensive lineman in the Pac-10. He was named Pac-10 Conference First Team twice and as a senior he was a finalist for the Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy.
Tuaolo then had a successful career as a Nose Tackle in the NFL for nine years, playing for five NFL teams. The Green Bay Packers drafted him in the 1991 NFL Draft in the second round as the 35th overall pick. He played 20 games for the Green Bay Packers from 1991 to 1992, was the first Rookie in Packer history to start all 16 games in a season, and was a member of the 1991 all-rookie team. Tuaolo then played 60 games for the Minnesota Vikings from 1992 to 1996; 6 games for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1997; 13 games for the Atlanta Falcons in 1998; and 12 games for the Carolina Panthers in 1999. He recorded 134 tackles, 12 sacks, and 1 interception, and, in 1998, won the NFC Championship with the Atlanta Falcons before losing at the Super Bowl to the Denver Broncos. During that Super Bowl XXXIII, Tuaolo recorded the last tackle of football legend John Elway.
In 2002, having retired from sports, Tuaolo announced to the public that he is gay, coming out on HBO's Real Sports. This made him the third former NFL player to come out, after David Kopay and Roy Simmons.
Since coming out, Tuaolo has been a strong advocate for the LGBT community. For example, he has worked with the NFL to combat homophobia in the league and is a board member of the Gay and Lesbian Athletics Foundation. He has testified at the State Legislature Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in opposition to an anti-gay marriage bill. He makes and has made appearances on various television programs—such as The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Tyra Banks Show, and Good Morning America—to talk about and combat homophobia. Tuaolo's current LGBT advocacy primarily involves speaking at colleges and corporations about the pervasiveness of homophobia and helping organizational leaders create a fair and safe environment for their members and employees.
Tuaolo is also an author. His autobiography, Alone in the Trenches: My Life As a Gay Man in the NFL, was released in the spring of 2006. (ISBN 1-4022-0505-8). It details Tuaolo's upbringing and sheds light on how his experiences with poverty, sexuality, and football shaped him.
Tuaolo has entertained a singing career during and after football. While with the Packers, for example, Tuaolo once sang the National Anthem in full pads before a game against the Chicago Bears, and then immediately after started in that game. He has since sung the anthem at professional sporting events, from NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA games to the opening ceremony of the Gay Games VII, a quadrennial Olympics-style event. He has also released his own music, such as Stronger and Another Broken Heart with Lari White, and has performed at various venues and events in the United States and Europe.
Tuaolo was arrested for a minor domestic incident with his then boyfriend in June 2010 in North Oaks, Minnesota. He was released on $2,000 bail with a court date set for August. Although some media coverage arose, the prosecutor dismissed the charges.
Tuaolo currently resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and has two smart and beautiful twins, Mitchell and Michele. Along with his advocacy and singing, he does philanthropic work, cooks professionally, and runs Hate in Any Form is Wrong, an anti-bullying program.