You should have a good idea by now how much I enjoy finding some of those lesser known talents who not only could improve their stock with an impressive showing at the NFL combine, but could currently be on the Panthers radar already. The next prospect I would like to introduce to you (if you don’t already know) is a guy who will most likely be a sixth round or later type of pick because of several reasons, not the least of which is his age. By the time the ’12-’13 season rolls around, he will already be 27. I’m sure this may scare some teams away, but that would be a shame, because I believe he still has a fair amount of upside. I bet you’ve already guessed where this guy went to school if you know anything about The Church of Latter Day Saints (I’m not a member of this church, so don’t accuse me of proselytizing). Of course, the college is BYU, and all of their students and athletes are presented with the opportunity to serve for two years as a missionary while in college. This puts their current football status on hold, but they do come back more mature than when they left, and this can be an advantage for those players. After the jump, I will reveal his name, and I guarantee that you will, at the very least, find his story as fascinating as they come.
Hebron Fangupo is his name, and he is originally from the island of Tonga. After finishing high school in California, Fangupo excitedly went on a mission to the Philippines, and upon returning, he enrolled at Mt. San Antonio College in Los Angeles County, where he became one of the top defensive tackle JUCO prospects in the nation in 2008. Shortly thereafter, big-time colleges began recruiting him seriously, including BYU. Although Fangupo was very interested in them, he ultimately felt like the Lord was leading him somewhere else. While he was still considering the many schools that were vying for his services, he was encouraged by a friend to look into USC, which had not previously shown interest in him. Deciding to take matters into his own hands, Fangupo did something I’ve never quite heard of before. He jumped the 10-foot wall that surrounded the USC practice field, walked over to the defensive coordinator, Nick Holt, and told him he was there to replace Fili Moala, another player of Tongan descent, who was drafted the following year by the Colts in the second round. Fangupo was somehow able to convince Holt and some of the other staff to watch him practice at Mt. San Antonio College the following day. They were impressed enough to offer him a full scholarship the very next day, but his stint at USC would be short-lived.
While at practice one day, he received a call from his wife alerting him that someone was burglarizing their house. His family was unharmed in the incident, but that was all it took for Fangupo to realize that he and his family needed to get out of Los Angeles. When the season ended, he headed northeast with his family to Provo, Utah to escape the threats of city life and pursue the possibility of playing for BYU. It wasn’t easy approaching the coach that he had previously turned down, but he was able to impress the coach enough to be invited as a walk-on. He finished his Senior season with a respectable 26 total tackles, 6 TFL, 2 PD, and 3 QB hurries. While his numbers may not impress you, he was a big part of the reason why BYU was the 19th ranked rushing defense in the nation. At 6’1”, 331 lbs, this run-stuffing nose tackle is nearly immovable and his former head coach at BYU, Bronco Mendenhall, says he is the strongest player he’s ever coached. Before you decide where you stand on Fangupo’s potential at the next level, take the time to watch the video below, and let me know whether or not you would take a shot on him in the sixth or seventh round of the upcoming draft.