Fangupo right where he's supposed to be

After playing high school football in Santa Ana, California, Hebron Fangupo left to serve an LDS mission. Then, after two years of playing at Mt. San Antonio College, he chose USC over BYU. Fangupo talks about why he chose the Trojans, and what eventually led him to BYU.

Hebron Fangupo loves the Book of Mormon classes that he now takes as a senior student at BYU. So with his heart firmly entrenched in his faith – the faith of the Tongan people has been duly noted in the writings of LDS General Authorities – one would think BYU would have been the first college choice for him.

Not so fast.

"I prayed about it," said Fangupo with a laugh. "You know? I prayed about it and Heavenly Father sent me to USC."

One might think that an LDS player would be better served by being around others with similar beliefs and values, but Fangupo's life was changed by attending USC.

"Heavenly Father sent me to USC and that's where I found my wife," he said with a smile.

Finding his wife Rebekah might be why Fangupo was inspired to choose USC, but it was the environment down there that led him to BYU, which had unsuccessfully recruited him earlier on.

While Fangupo was attending USC, his apartment was broken into one day while his wife was home.

"She was scared and everything, and so we started praying about our situation," Fangupo said. "I told her, ‘We have to move.' I didn't really say anything and wasn't thinking about what school or anything and she said, ‘We have to go to BYU.' I asked her why and she said, ‘I prayed about it.' Then we prayed about it together and we both got the answer to come to BYU, so I made a phone call."

Fangupo believes the Lord led him to Provo, Utah.

"He knew I needed to be here, especially with my wife," said Fangupo. "We haven't been here that long but we've really grown here. Really it's a safe environment and the Church is here. It's also a great place to be and a great place to raise a family, so I feel like I was led here for a reason and now I know why."

Fangupo gave up his USC scholarship to walk on at BYU, and has had to find his own way to support his family, go to school and play football.

"I don't think having a scholarship here is ever going to happen. It's a labor of love and I'm just going to ball out here. Really, I'm just blessed that they let me come here and play. I feel blessed that they just let me in."

Despite not receiving a scholarship, Fangupo believes the decision to come to BYU was the right one.

"I love this place! The fans are great, the program is great and everyone here is really freakin' cool. I love the fact that I can be free and open to have spiritual conversations, I can have goofy conversations and I can have serious conversations. I'm really enjoying it here and I love the people here because they're like me. I'm just really happy that I'm here and this is where I'm supposed to be. I'm not going to go anywhere where the Spirit doesn't tell me to go."

Since joining his band of brothers, Fangupo has raised some eyebrows. His 6-foot-1-inch, 331-pound frame packs a punch, and according to Coach Mendenhall, he's one of the strongest players he's ever coached.

Fangupo has had to adjust to BYU's 3-4 defense after playing in a 4-3 scheme at USC.

"Well I feel there's room for improvement, and I think I'm doing okay," Fangupo said. "I gotta do more to help out my teammates and make it easier for linebackers and get my assignments down and learn to play, but I feel I'm doing pretty good. If Heavenly Father wills it, I better do much better if we're going to keep winning."

In the meantime, he's nursing a sore ankle that he sprained during the Oregon State game. While Fangupo was lying on the turf at Reser Stadium, trainer Kevin Morris ran out to help him and assist his injured ankle.

"I was nervous and I remember Kevin was holding the wrong ankle," Fangupo said with a laugh while trying to reenact the desperation in his voice. "I was like, ‘Kevin you're holding the wrong ankle! It's not that ankle!' I was in so much pain and this was the worst I had hurt it after my surgery. This was the most I had ever been in pain and the most it had hurt. I'll slowly come back, but I'll be back."

"When I got out there [Fangupo] was like, ‘Aaaaaaaahhh!'" said trainer Kevin Morris with a laugh. "Then I started looking because we had the one taped and spattered, the one he had hurt, so I was thinking, ‘It's got to be his other ankle.' So I started looking at it and he goes, ‘No, no, no, my other ankle!' I was like, ‘Oh, okay.' So, the x-rays look good and we'll just kind of go day to day with it."

In the meantime, Fangupo has gotten down on his knees asking for a little help with a speedy recovery to be back on the field for Idaho State.

"I'm praying, and so my plan is to be back this week, but I know I'm not going to be dumb about it," Fangupo said. "Overall right now, I don't know what's going to happen and it's all up to Him. I'm doing the best I can, but it's really all up to the man upstairs when I come back."


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