Eleven years ago, he was Mr. Irrelevant, a former airline baggage handler who became the last pick in the 2001 NFL draft. Today, Tevita "T-Bone" Ofahengaue is out of football and, well, irrelevant.
But there's another Ofahengaue (pronounced Oh-fah-hay-now-way) playing the sport now – one who's becoming quite relevant indeed.
Tevita sent some game film of Teili Ofahengaue to a Big Ten coach recently and got an excited reply. That's usually the emotion football people show when they see this film. See, Teili, 14, is a defensive lineman with a tendency to bowl over offensive linemen and quite a few quarterbacks as well. So Tevita sends it out, waits for the reaction, and then lets the viewer in on a little more information.
Teili Ofahengaue is a girl.
"Dude," says her coach, Fred Prescott, "she's good."
"I guarantee you she can start on a high school level," Prescott says. "She plays like one of the boys. It kind of scares me.”
Full disclosure: Prescott is also Teili's uncle. But it's hard to argue with the tape. If Sam Gordon is the female Reggie Bush, Teili (pronounced TAY-lee) looks like the female J.J. Watt. She's been playing in her Utah league for two seasons and has 20 sacks and 20 tackles for loss. In this video, she bursts through the line, causes a fumble, scoops it up, and bolts down the field.
"Last year was kind of a shock," says Tevita, Teili's dad. "She went to the tryout and came out with her helmet on. Everyone goes one-on-one. She was killing everyone. She takes her helmet off and the parents were like, 'That's a girl! I can't believe my son was getting killed by a girl!' "
The boys were not all enthused by Teili.
"At first, they were all tripping out," says Prescott. But then, gradually, they came to accept and like her. The favorite phrase on the team, called the Westlake Thunder, is "Nice buns, Teili." That's not a crude come-on, but rather a comment on how she wears her hair under her helmet.
It shouldn't be surprising that Teili is good at football. Her dad was 6-2, 250 pounds as an NFL player with Arizona and Jacksonville. He was ferocious as a tight end at BYU, and Prescott's only issue with Teili is she leads with her head too much. The coach winces when he sees offensive linemen flying backward when Teili rushes from the end. She's 5-7 and nearly 190 pounds – as an eighth grader.
"I'm telling you," Prescott says, "I think she might be better at this level than he was. I want her to do girly things, but this is what she loves."
Prescott is still waiting for her to pick up "girly things," but it doesn't seem to be happening. Teili loves football so much that she watches film of Ravens star Haloti Ngata. This weekend, she's headed to an all-star exhibition in Las Vegas. Teile does want to keep playing into high school and she's not against the idea of playing football in college if she is good enough to make a team.
For the short term, only a few unfortunate offensive linemen in Utah will have to deal with Miss Relevant.
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