Penn State's Olu Fashanu says last season made him a better football player

Mar. 18—Olu Fashanu's decision to return to Penn State last year was a relatively easy one.

He could have declared for the NFL Draft and could have become a millionaire as a first-round pick, but he had unfinished business.

Fashanu wanted to complete his bachelor's degree requirements and wanted to become an even better offensive tackle.

"I definitely think I'm a better player," he said. "I don't regret the opportunity to come back for another year. This last year has been one of the best years of my life, getting another opportunity to be with the guys and to compete and be with this program."

The 6-6, 312-pound Fashanu is projected to be taken among the first 15 picks in this year's NFL Draft, as early as No. 7 by the Tennessee Titans.

He did not allow a sack in 646 pass-blocking snaps in his two seasons as Penn State's starting left tackle, a remarkable achievement.

He ran some drills last week at Penn State's Pro Day after he suffered a minor quad injury earlier this month at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

"It wasn't significant," Fashanu said. "Earlier this week I did a little dry run and I felt good enough to do some drills here. I'm not 100%. I'm close to 80%."

Fashanu said he expected to be completely healthy before the NFL Draft April 25-27 in Detroit. He estimated that he's met with 13 to 18 teams.

"This process has definitely been everything I imagined," he said. "(It's been) a lot of work, talking to teams and meeting other prospects during training and at the Combine. It's been great. I'm just thankful to be in this position."

One of those fellow prospects is USC quarterback Caleb Williams, his high school teammate at Gonzaga College in Washington, D.C. It's widely projected that the Chicago Bears will draft Williams with the No. 1 pick. The Bears also have the ninth selection, which they could use to take Fashanu.

"Of course," he said when asked if he considered winding up on the same NFL team as Williams. "When we spoke at the Combine, we didn't even talk about that. We were just catching up. The last time I saw him in person was my senior year. It's been a while.

"We had a lot to talk about. That's my boy."

Fashanu was not considered a blue-chip prospect in high school. Rivals was the only recruiting service to give him four stars; the others gave him three.

With the Nittany Lions, he was redshirted in 2020 and played sparingly in 2021 until making his first career start in their Outback Bowl loss to Arkansas. He rocketed up draft boards in 2022 before he sustained a season-ending injury against Ohio State, the eighth game of the season.

He played superbly last year and was named the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year and a consensus first-team All-American, Penn State's first offensive lineman to be so honored since Jeff Hartings in 1995.

Fashanu said he worked last year on becoming a more vocal leader. He aimed to look out for younger offensive linemen such as former Wyomissing standout J'ven Williams and Anthony Donkoh, who enrolled in January 2023.

"They're great guys on and off the field," Fashanu said. "They want to learn, which is the No. 1 thing for a young player. They want to get better. You can see that in the way they approach everything we do day in and day out. The future's really bright for them."

As it is for Fashanu, who can't wait for the draft.

"It's going to be great," he said. "It's a moment I've dreamed about for a long time. It's been a very long goal of mine, since I started playing football. When that moment comes, I'm not really sure what I'm going to do. I'm just going to make sure I embrace everyone who's been with me this entire time."