"I simply wasn't ready coming in," Fabuluje said. "I thought that I was, but I had no idea and I think that happens to a lot of guys, so that first week of practice, it just killed me to be honest with you - the altitude with just not knowing what to do. I thought it was just talk about the altitude, but it's real. I know that now."
Fabuluje is a hulking 6-foot-6-inch, 300-pound defensive lineman who played at a relatively low level of high school football. He played on both sides of the football, and his talents were recognized by many Big 12 programs.
He opted to sign with BYU with his best friend Ross Apo and is grateful for that decision, although it's been a bit of a rough go.
"I wasn't in good shape, so it wasn't good at all and I got frustrated a lot my first few weeks," he recalled. "Fortunately I have a great position coach in Coach Kaufusi who understands what it's like and works with you well so you don't have to be frustrated. I'm so grateful to have him as my position coach."
Fabuluje played in a 4-3 base defense in high school, which is much different than the 3-4 defense he plays defensive end in at BYU.
"You pretty much just go as an end in a 4-3 because it's just a one-gap system instead of the two-gap here at BYU," he explained. "There is a lot of new techniques that I really struggled with but that I'm getting now. You just have a lot more responsibility as an end in a 3-4 system. You have to hold two gaps instead of just one while maintaining pressure, or nothing works and opposing offenses will run and pass all over you."
Given his physical makeup, Fabuluje could be considered a much better option in a 3-4 defense than a 4-3.
"I'm a big dude, so I'd definitely agree that I'm better suited to play in this type of system," he agreed. "It's more complicated, but if it's done right, it can be a powerful thing in limiting what offenses do. I've had to change a lot of how I play and learn new techniques, and it's finally setting in. I'm so much better and more capable now than I was the first week for sure."
Fabuluje has found himself on scout team duty, which he's very thankful for.
"I just wasn't ready with my conditioning and with my knowledge, so I'm grateful to have a chance to play on scout team," he said. "We don't get to play, so our game day is every day we go against the offense, and we bring it like it's a game and we're doing real well, I think."
He's been playing both defensive end and nose tackle, and he's been taking careful notes from every defensive lineman playing ahead of him.
"They're molding me, them and Coach Kaufusi," he related. "They're helping me so much so that next spring I can really compete because I wasn't really ready to when I came in. I'm so much more comfortable now with my conditioning and my knowledge. I just have to keep on learning, so that I can help the team next year."
As far as his social acclimation, there have been some struggles, but overall he's doing very well.
"It's easy getting along socially here with how friendly everyone is," he said. "I'm a friendly guy too, so it hasn't been a problem at all making friends. Everyone just cares for you here and how you're doing, it's amazing. I sort of knew that coming in, but I really didn't know just how much."
Fabuluje has maintained his strong friendship with Ross Apo, although he's made a lot of new friends. His main influences are those on the football team, however.
"We're all real tight and we make sure we hang out a lot," he explained. "Part of the reason we all came here is because we liked each other already and wanted to be at the same school, so that's just continued."
One thing that is helping Fabuluje branch out socially with people other than his teammates is living in the dorms.
"You can't help but meet people when living there," he said. "It's not my first choice of where to live and I'll be happy when I get out of there, but overall, I think it's been a good thing for me."
One of the biggest struggles with living in a dorm comes with his enormous size, which doesn't take well to a tiny dorm room.
"The beds are the hardest thing," Fabuluje. "I just need a bigger bed, to be honest with you. They're hard and small and I like a soft bed and I'm big, so that's something I don't like. I really like my roommate though and I do think I'll miss some things about living in the dorms when I get out of there, but right now, I think it will be a little like being released from prison."
Overall, making it at BYU just takes commitment for Fabuluje. He's very aware that BYU is unlike any other university and any other football program, but that was a big part of its allure.
"Coaches do a lot more here in not only making you a better football player, but a better person, which isn't an easy thing to do," he explained. "For that reason I have a ton of respect for them and for the program. It's a very positive environment, which I love. What Kaufusi always tells us is that if we mess up, make sure we mess up 110 percent so that he can fix it and fix it fast, so that's what we do. Overall, I love being here. It's a bit different than I thought it would be both in football and in school, but it's been a good different."