The NFL Draft on Thursday is fast approaching, and everyone in the media has only talked about two quarterbacks, one defensive player and a couple of wide receivers. Rare does the defensive player get much play or respect among those who claim their title of analyst. It is a shame considering players like linebacker prospect VJ Fehoko from Texas Tech and defensive lineman Siale Hautau from Oregon State could end up being the X factors of the draft.
Fehoko came from a family of six in a tough upbringing deep in the heart of Honolulu, Hawaii. While working with little in the way of monetary wealth, the family had to make up for that in a form of work ethic that was necessary for survival.
“Both of my parents raised my brothers and I through what some call, ‘tough love’,” Fehoko said. “We understood that everything came at the price of hard work. Work ethics were strongly established for my brothers and I at a young age.”
That work ethic passed down by proud parents formed a class of collegiate prospects, all of which attended Farrington High School in Honolulu.
Hautau was born and raised in Salt Lake City, UT, in the Glendale community. He is of Tongan descent and grew up in a very cultural household that served as a bunker protecting the family while surrounded by the devilish gang violence that overtook the community. As the oldest of six children he always strived to be the shining example to his younger siblings through sports, which served as a safe haven away from the evil around town.
“I grew up in an area where there is a lot of gang violence,” Hautau said, “so my parents always had me playing sports to try to steer me away from that lifestyle.”
For the Fehokos, football was also an avenue to steer them away from the struggle. They knew from the start that their college education would be paid in full with their football talents being exchanged in the trade. Whitley, the oldest of the Fehoko brothers, laid out the foundation and set the standard for the family – the rest simply took his lead.
“Football has been a stepping stone for my family,” Fehoko said. “Football is considered more than a game to me because it has changed my life in so many aspects. I show my respect to the game day in and day out, by giving it everything that I have.”
With his immense size and strength, Hautau is a great fit for any NFL defensive line. His size is best for clogging up running lanes and occupying the attention of multiple offensive linemen. He is also able to overpower his opponent across from him because even though he is huge, he is also very quick and athletic.
“I’m a big body,” Hautau said, “but I can move and be light on my feet.”
Fehoko is on point with any other NFL linebacker tangibly speaking, but his work ethic stands out and holds its own against all other draft prospects.
“I will work until I die,” Fehoko said. “It has what has gotten me this far and may be the only thing keeping me going. I understand that in football you have to be consistent in order to see good results and improvement. Work ethic has helped me improve in tremendous ways since I have started playing football. It is what describes me as a player. I will not quit. It just isn’t in my nature to quit. Work ethic always keeps me grounded and focused, allowing me to strengthen all aspects of becoming a better a football player. I personally feel that without work ethics you cannot become better.”
Fehoko also believes he doesn’t have a major weakness because “if I had lacked tremendously in any area I wouldn’t have made it this far.” To him, an inside linebacker in a BCS conference like the Pac12 and the Big 12 cannot lack in almost any component, “due to the amount of explosive offenses you will face in a season.”
There is an area in which Fehoko is striving to improve and that is the conversion from a learned concept to second nature. That comes with the ability to not over analyze/complicate things, which is hard for a linebacker because they are the defensive equivalent of the quarterback.
“As an inside linebacker, you are bombarded with tons of defensive information and by thinking too much you can actually not play to the best of your ability,” Fehoko said. “The less you think the faster you will play. Sometimes I will try to get to that point to where I stress to know aspects of the game well enough so that it will become second nature. However, sometimes that may cloud instinct. Finding the grey area is tricky at times but something that I could always get better at.”
Where they get selected is an unknown to everyone, but when their name gets called, their abilities will pay dividends for their respective defenses starting August.