SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Before he returned to Herriman High School for his senior season, Leki Fotu had an offer to play professional rugby in Europe.
But after consulting with his family, Fotu decided football was the best path for him.
“I had to talk to my mom and my family, but the best interest was to finish my education and to see where football will take me,” Fotu said.
That decision paid off last month as the two-time All-Pac-12 first team defensive tackle was selected in the 4th round of the NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. Fotu was the first of three Utah defensive linemen, along with Bradlee Anae and John Penisini, to be taken in the draft. The Utes had seven players total selected.
Fotu has used his rugby-like athleticism to become one of the fastest 340-pound linemen you’ll ever see. Fotu earned third team AP All-American status as a senior, and he credits his Utah coaches for unleashing the skills it takes to become an NFL player.
“One of the main reasons why I came back to school my senior year was to try to learn more about my position,” Fotu said. “The [Arizona] coaching staff is just going to elevate my game from the past four years I have been here at Utah.”
Beginning an NFL career under these circumstances is challenging, but Fotu is relying on an old Utah teammate, Kylie Fitts, who signed with the Cardinals last year, to help him navigate life in the NFL.
“He’s really excited to have one of his boys down there, and I’m excited to see him down there,” Fotu said. Having that relationship that we had here at Utah, and knowing that I have one of my old teammates there, it’s going to definitely help.”
Fotu is also relying on Fitts to help him learn the playbook while all the players have been forced to be away from team facilities because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“During this time, I’m trying to play catch-up to their level,” Fotu said. “But if I have any questions, I make sure I talk to my defensive line coach and my old teammate Kylie.”
There is a strong tradition of Utah lineman making it big in the NFL, from guys like Luther Elliss, Sione Pouha, Paul Soliai, Paul Kruger and Star Lotulelei, and Fotu hopes to be the next.
“I feel like if I just play my game, with the help of the coaching staff and the experience of the vets to help me out in the trenches, I feel like I’m going to be a key player on their defense,” he said.