“It’s definitely been a long, long road — a long process, a very hard road — but all that has just made me stronger,” Lotulelei said. “It’s what has put me and my family in this position now.”
Although the experiences were sometimes “very humbling,” Lotulelei noted that he’s grown from it all. He credits his wife for keeping him level-headed and is grateful that his family has been so supportive.
While Lotulelei was playing football and attending school at Utah, Fuiva worked as a cashier at a restaurant in West Jordan. Lotulelei said she “deserves everything” and he’s eager to provide it.
Support, which includes Star’s parents bringing the young family into their home and assisting with the kids over the past couple of years, made Lotulelei’s heart scare more difficult to handle.
“It would have been real disappointing for my family,” he said. “I would have felt like I let them down, even if I couldn’t have helped it.”
The sacrifices made will result in rapid rewards. After signing his first NFL contract, Lotulelei’s wish list is topped by a desire to buy a car for his wife and parents.
“Hopefully I can do that,” he said, “So we’ll see what happens.”
Utah alum Sione Pouha, who has played in the NFL since 2005, is confident things will work out well for Lotulelei.
“I think he was born ready,” Pouha said. “He’s already demonstrated it on the field and I think whatever team he goes to, they’re going to be very, very, very fortunate. They’re getting a very good football player and more of a man as well.”
Although ticketed to go as high as No. 1 overall at one point, Lotulelei isn’t worrying about it as the draft approaches. It’s never been a goal of his.
“Whether it’s top 5, top 10, would just be like the icing on the cake. It won’t be a let-down if I’m not the No. 1 pick, or top 5, or top 10 — anything like that,” Lotulelei said. “As long as I have a chance to show what I have or go out to a team, that’s all I need. All I need is for a team to take a chance on me.”
Lotulelei is confident that whatever team that takes him will be satisfied and he’ll “find a place somewhere for me and my family.”
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Lotulelei leaves behind quite a legacy at Utah. He was a first-team All-American as a senior and a two-time first-team Pac-12 all-conference honoree. In 2011, the 6-foot-4, 320-pound tackle won the Morris Trophy as the conference’s top defensive lineman.
During his three-year tenure with the Utes, the two-time captain racked up 107 tackles, 22.5 tackles-for-loss, seven sacks, five fumble recoveries and four forced fumbles. As a junior, Lotulelei was named Most Valuable Lineman in Utah’s Sun Bowl victory over Georgia Tech. He decided to return for his senior season to improve his skill set for the NFL and complete course work on his degree.
“I’ve got all the respect in the world for Star. He’s meant so much to our program in the three years that he’s been here as a leader and a player,” Whittingham said. “(He’s) a great example to the younger players and we are going to miss him. He was a tremendous player and brought so much to the table for us.”
Sitake is also appreciative of Lotulelei’s contributions up on the hill. He considers Star something special.
“I’m excited to see who is going to take him, where he’s going to end up playing and what team I’m going to have to root for just to support him,” Sitake said. “We’ll see how it goes. I don’t even know where everyone’s predicting him to go, but I’m just excited for him overall.”
Lotulelei’s accomplishments and the sacrifices he and his family have made, Sitake added, is “going to pay off.”
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