Defensive end Jason Fanaika has turned 'into a man' at Utah
The adversity Fanaika faced, including having to walk on at Utah, was character-building. Tuiaki said he’s happy he stuck through it and considers it a great story.
“It’s been fun to really see him turn into a man,” Tuiaki said. “It’s been to fun to really see him because you’ve heard of stories where guys face adversity and find a way out and just end up quitting school and getting divorced just going through a lot of stuff, but he’s really, really been good. So it’s really been exciting to see that.”
Fanaika’s transition to Utah has been smooth, Tuiaki confirmed, he’s come in and fit in well with the Utes’ defensive line.
“He’s just one of the guys — a great kid, an awesome kid,” Tuiaki said. “He came and paid his dues here and walked on for a whole year and earned a scholarship. We put him on and it’s been awesome to have him.”
Since Fanaika was at Utah State, he’s matured a lot, Tuiaki continued, and brings a lot of energy and athleticism to the Utes. Fanaika said the change of scenery has been wonderful.
“It’s family. So I love it,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Given the circumstances, Fanaika feels that he’s fortunate that he had the chance and opportunity to walk on at Utah. He noted that he had a lot of people on the team to look up to, including Trevor Reilly, Tenny Palepoi, LT Tuipulotu, Latu Heimuli, Nate Orchard and Seni Fauonuku.
“All those guys kind of took me under their wing and helped me get situated here and then it was just up to me to work hard,” Fanaika said. “It’s been a great, great path for me.”
After redshirting last season, Fanaika is now on the depth. He and Dimick have swapped No. 1 and No. 2 spots at left end on the depth chart during camp and both are expected to see extensive action this season. Tuiaki said it’s a healthy competition and both players know the starting job will be up for grabs every single day.
Recently, though, Tuiaki informed the pair that Dimick had performed better and was going to start. Fanaika’s reaction impressed the coach.
“He leaned over and patted (Dimick) on the back and congratulated him and came back out and is performing and competing,” Tuiaki said. “He didn’t shy away from that. Awesome person.”
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