It doesn’t surprise me a bit. Star is a unique individual. He’s a family guy. His family is so important to him and just going to New York and sitting around waiting in a room, that’s not his deal. —Kyle Whittingham, Utah football head coach
SALT LAKE CITY — Star Lotulelei’s decision not to attend the NFL Draft in New York City on April 25 didn’t catch Utah coach Kyle Whittingham off guard.
“It doesn’t surprise me a bit. Star is a unique individual,” Whittingham said. “He’s a family guy. His family is so important to him and just going to New York and sitting around waiting in a room, that’s not his deal.”
Especially, Whittingham added, if it doesn’t have an effect on his draft position.
Although Lotulelei is projected to be a high first-round pick, the former University of Utah defensive tackle declined an invitation from the NFL to be on hand for the proceedings at Radio City Music Hall.
In a statement released through his agent, Bruce Tollner, Lotulelei explained his decision.
“I want to thank the NFL for inviting me to New York City for the draft. Being invited is a tremendous honor and I am very grateful for the consideration,” Lotulelei said. “After discussing it with my family, I have decided to stay in Utah for the draft so I can share this moment with all of the people that have supported me my entire life. I expect over 50 family and friends at our home for this wonderful occasion and look forward to a special day."
Whittingham supports Lotulelei’s decision, adding that he’s different than most guys in his position.
“He’s not a limelight guy,” Whittingham said. “He just wants to play ball and be with his family. That’s what he wants to do.”
The big deal, Whittingham continued, is Lotulelei getting cleared medically. An abnormal heart test — revealing 44 percent efficiency in his left ventricle — at the NFL Scouting Combine raised concerns.
Additional testing, though, indicated that the condition was only temporary — likely due to a cold.
In a report from the cardiology division of the University of Utah Sciences Center, Dr. Josef Stehlik stated that a “thorough and comprehensive” test on Lotulelei on March 27 “showed complete normalization of the heart muscle function.”
The report, which was forwarded to DeseretNews.com by Lotulelei’s agent, concluded with a statement that it was safe for Lotulelei to participate in professional athletics without restriction.
“That was such great news,” Whittingham said. “And really the biggest thing in the whole equation is him getting that clean bill of health.”