For some, the glitz and glamour of traditionally high-profile schools can be appealing. However, for highly-coveted defensive tackle, Leki Fotu, going to the University of Utah (and staying close to his family) was a no brainer.
“Just to have them around it means something special to the team,” said Fotu. “Staying in-state feels pretty good. It’s nice to have your friends and family here close to you instead of going out of state. It’s pretty hard trying to make your name out there; it’s like a restart if you go to another school outside of the state.”
Staying quiet, being humble, and playing with a superior work ethic are noticeable traits for the defensive tackle who was seen playing on both sides of the ball at open scrimmage on March 25th. However, he doesn’t care where he is playing, he simply just wants to do his job.
“Right now I’m just focusing with the older guys,” said Fotu. “Everyday I’m asking them questions about how my technique is and stuff during film.”
Fotu didn’t always play football—it wasn’t something he really had a desire to do until after he moved to Utah with his mom and siblings. He had a close relationship with his family, though tragically, within a month of each other, Fotu had lost his little sister and his father.
Fotu’s mother Toa packed up the family and moved them to Utah, so they could be closer to family after losing her husband. It was in Utah where Leki learned that he loved playing football. His older brothers pushed him to play and that’s when he started getting noticed by colleges—even though he had only been playing for a short time, Fotu was named the UHSAA 5A Most Valuable Player.
Being able to take care of his mom is Fotu’s biggest motivation for playing football. “She’s just like any other mom, she’s hardworking, she’s been doing everything for me, and it’s just my way of paying her back,” said Fotu. “All of the adversity we’ve been through has been pushing her, and especially us kids to try and live a better life than she has. She always pushes us to have a better life than she has. Right now she’s working two full-time jobs.”
Watching his mom work two full-time jobs and be both parental figures has motivated Fotu to not only work towards playing in the NFL, but also finish his college degree while he’s here. He understands that things aren’t always promised.
“Family is the only thing I got right now,” said Fotu. “The main reason I chose to stay here is because of my mom. I chose to stay here so I could take care of her. Practice right here, then right after practice I go home just 30 minutes away and take care of her.”
As a new season approaches, Fotu is excited to see where and how he can contribute this upcoming season. With fellow defensive tackle Vaha Vainuku retiring from football, it seems even more likely that Fotu will have a more prominent role in the defensive scheme in 2017. Fotu’s rise has been nothing short of spectacular, though this season is all about coming closer to helping his mom and family.