Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Hebron “Loni” Fangupo won’t get drafted tonight in the first round of the NFL draft, but he’ll get drafted — just ask him.
“There is no question that I’m getting drafted,” says Fangupo, who is projected to go in the later rounds. “I know I’ll get drafted. My film is just too good for teams to pass up. I can’t explain the details and all that, but I know that I will get drafted.”
Fangupo is a 6-foot-1, 323-pound defensive line prospect who played just one year for BYU after transferring from USC. Although it was just a one-year stint, he played a huge role along the Cougar defensive front, playing primarily from the end position.
Following successful showings at both the NFL combine and at BYU’s pro day, Fangupo is riding high and confident his name will be called over the weekend. Teams have shown increased interest since his final workout at BYU to support Fangupo’s optimism.
Recently he’s been flown out by both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts in order for both teams to take a closer look.
“They’re obviously interested in flying me out there and taking a big part of the day to look at me closer, so I can’t see how that isn’t a positive thing,” said Fangupo. “That was a different experience being there and having them ask every sort of question and work out a bit more for them, but it was great and I think I impressed both of them.”
Former BYU defensive linemen, such as Chris Hoke and Brett Keisel, have contributed heavily to the Steelers' three-man front over the years, which is obviously a plus for Fangupo. Having been schooled in playing at both nose tackle and at the end positions adds significantly to his resume.
“I have to credit coach Kaufusi for teaching me the finer points of playing defensive end in a 3-4 defense,” said Fangupo. “Teams know that I can play either inside or outside, which is a big help to me and my chances of getting drafted and playing in the NFL.”
The Colts recently switched to a 3-4 base defensive system, leading to a lot of interest in Fangupo and what he can add to their existing front. Fangupo, who is a Raider fan, would love the opportunity to play for either team.
“I like all 32 teams and think that all 32 teams would be great to play for,” he said. “It’s been a dream for me to play in the NFL and I’ll be happy with whatever team drafts me.”
Fangupo is projected by most services to go in the sixth or seventh rounds, with a possibility of going undrafted and signing on as a free agent. When, where and if he’ll get drafted isn’t something he’s focusing on, however.
“I don’t do that. I don’t sweat and think about when I’m going to get drafted. Guys drive themselves nuts doing that stuff,” said Fangupo. “I know I’ll get drafted, I know I’ll land in a great situation, so why stress over it? Teams have my film and my film is great. They know what I can do. I know what I can do and everything is going to work out.”
Indeed things have worked out well for Fangupo since he decided to start playing football when he was a high school senior. He had been a rugby player, but when he learned playing football could pay for college, he elected to strap on some pads and give it a go.
He caught on with Mt. San Antonio College out of high school and was tabbed as a 5-star prospect following his sophomore year, signing with USC. After an injury-plagued stint for the Trojans, he transferred to BYU.
He’s now on the cusp of reaching the level of his football experience and couldn’t be more excited.
“Playing in the NFL isn’t for me, but for everyone who has supported me through everything,” said Fangupo. “I’ve been so blessed. I have the best wife in the world, loving parents, the greatest kid ever, great coaches and teammates. Me getting drafted and whatever success I have goes to them. It’s all about family for me, and I just hope to continue to have a chance to pay them back for everything they’ve given me.”
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