KANSAS CITY (ABC4 Sports) – BYU wide receiver and former Orem High star Puka Nacua was selected in the fifth round of the NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday.

Nacua was the 42nd pick of the fifth round at 177th overall in the 2023 NFL Draft on Saturday.

He is the third BYU player selected thus far in the 2023 NFL Draft, joining All-American offensive lineman Blake Freeland, who was selected by the Indianapolis Colts 106th overall in the fourth round, and star quarterback Jaren Hall, who was taken with the 29th pick of the fifth round at 164th overall in the 2023 NFL Draft.

“Puka has tons of ability and is a playmaker,” said BYU head coach Kalani Sitake. “He is the hardest worker, especially in practice. You can tell by his energy that practice is the best part of his day. He loves football. He’s the ultimate competitor and has non-stop energy and he’s a great teammate. I’m excited for what he can accomplish in the NFL.”

Nacua is the 12th BYU wide receiver to be selected in the NFL draft.  The last BYU wide receiver drafted was Dax Milne, taken in the seventh round of the 2021 NFL Draft by Washington. Before Milne, the previous Cougar receiver selected was All-American Austin Collie, who was a fourth-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2009.

With his selection, Nacua becomes the fifth Cougar receiver and the 41st BYU offensive player to be selected in one of the opening five rounds of the NFL Draft. Overall, he is the 68th BYU player to be taken in one of the first five rounds and the 13th former Cougar to be a fourth-round pick. 

Nacua appeared in 21 games, including 14 starts at BYU, leading the Cougars in receiving during his two seasons at BYU.

He totaled 1,430 yards on 91 receptions along with 11 touchdown grabs with the Cougars after transferring from Washington. He totaled seven games with more than 100 yards receiving in his career.

In 2022, the local product out of Orem High School led BYU with 48 receptions for 625 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 13 yards per grab and 69.4 yards per game. He compiled 834 all-purpose yards with 10 touchdowns in nine games. In 2021, he caught 43 passes for 805 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 18.7 yards a catch.

A two-time Phil Steele All-Independent First Team honoree (2021, 2022), Nacua was also the College Football Network All-Independent Wide Receiver of the Year and CFN All-Independent First Team selection last year.

In 2021, Nacua earned Pro Football Network Independent Wide Receiver of the Year, All-Independent First Team Offense and Independent Newcomer of the Year.

“Puka is the most explosive playmaker I’ve ever coached,” BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said. “He has an outstanding ability to run with the ball after the catch. He will be a great playmaker in the NFL.”

“In Puka, you’re getting someone who is all football,” added BYU wide receivers coach Fesi Sitake. “He eats, sleeps and breathes football. He’s very studious with film. He loves his craft as a receiver. You get the passion you want in Puka. He’s a super hard worker, a great leader and very charismatic. We’ve already felt the absence of Puka’s energy and smiles he brought every day, whether he was able to practice or not. He brings great value to his team with his infectious energy.”

The three BYU players taken in the draft ties the second most since 2002. BYU had five players selected in the 2021 NFL Draft.