Ho Ching Ready to Carry BYU Fullback Mantle

He was one of the strongest middle linebackers on defense prior to switching to the offensive side of the ball last season. Toloa’i Ho Ching has gone from punishing middle linebacker to punishing fullback in the wake of former fullback Paul Lasike’s graduation. Ho Ching has been steadily improving in hopes of becoming the next great BYU fullback.

As a freshman, Toloa’i Ho Ching was one of the strongest middle linebackers on BYU’s roster behind ‘Uani Unga. At 6-1, 245-pounds, Ho Ching has the size, speed, and strength to become the next hard-hitting fullback in BYU’s offensive backfield.

“Right now I’m maxing 465-pounds on the bench,” said Ho Ching who is currently a sophomore. “For squat the most I’ve squatted was five plates [495-pounds], and the fastest I’ve ran the forty was a 4.58. If they’ll let me run the ball I’ll do it. That’s what I’m working towards so we’ll see how it goes.”

The switch from playing defense to offense for Ho Ching came by way of Robert Anae and Mark Atuaia prior to the 2014 season. The two offensive coaches approached Ho Ching and asked him if he would be willing to make the switch.

“Well, I first have to thank Coach Anae, Uncle Rob, and Uncle Markie because they were really looking out for me,” said Ho Ching. “They needed another bigger back to play in the backfield and thought that I had what it took to get the job done. I’m excited to get going now that I’m on the offensive side of the ball.

“After fall camp of last year they pulled me aside and asked me if I would be willing to come over. I was playing middle linebacker, but at that time it just felt right and I moved over. Since then things have gone really well for me. I have a lot of work to do.”

During his high school days, Ho Ching was a hard-hitting, and aggressive, middle linebacker for Alta High School and was highly recruited. Ho Ching had offers from UCLA, Wisconsin, Stanford, and Utah. Those same skills that got him noticed as one of the top defensive prospects in the state of Utah years ago are the ones he’ll now apply to the fullback position.

“Oh, I love it,” Ho Ching said. “It’s actually kind of the same dynamics and mentality as playing linebacker but on the other side of the ball. You have to be physical and go out and hit someone. The only difference is you have the opportunity to carry the ball once in a while and you might score. I really enjoy it.”

“You have to be a dog in the middle. It’s a lot of fun. Last year was a good learning experience for me, and they kind of threw me in and I had to pick it up on the run. The good thing is we have a really good staff and they really helped me a lot. Coach Atuaia and the running backs really helped me to pick things up quickly and helped me a lot.”

Although Ho Ching will tell you that he has a long ways to go to before becoming the starting fullback; in actuality he’s well on his way. He has a lot of support, some playing time experience from last year, and has a fantastic coach in Mark Atuaia grooming him along the way.

“Oh man, Uncle Markie is a great coach and a great role model,” said Ho Ching. “If you ever want to learn how to run the ball and have a good time come to the RB room. A lot of why we’re such a close-knit group is because of Uncle Markie. He knows when to get serious but at the same time he knows how to make it fun.

“My main job right now is to be the bigger back, the blocking back for short yardages, and catching the ball and stuff like that. They told me that I would be able to do that because I’ve gained their trust. Now I just have to keep going. It’s kind of like Paul Lasike last year. He stepped up when our running backs got hurt and really performed well. I just need to do the same thing and fill those shoes and hope that I can follow in his footsteps.”

What does it take to be a good fullback? Well, according to Ho Ching you have to be humble and teachable. It’s a position that requires a lot of trust and responsibility given the skillsets, physical attributes, and responsibilities associated with the position.

“You have to be able to take coaching really well,” Ho Ching said. “You have to be coachable and teachable and just go all out. Like I said, you have to be that dog in the middle. I’m not going to brag because I still have a long ways to go, but you just have to have that mindset. It’s all about that mindset.”

During this year’s spring camp, Ho Ching received an opportunity to actually run the ball during a team scrimmage. His chance to carry the rock led to a 50-yard scamper down field despite practicing with the flu that day.

“It was a 50 yard run,” Ho Ching said with a smile on his face. “I got that speed from my mom’s side of the family. It’s all about those Tongan legs, those horse legs.”

When it comes to pedigree, Ho Ching’s gets his Tongan side from his mother, Luisa, who passed away prior to his return home from serving an LDS mission. His father Toloa’i Ho Ching, in whom he is named after, is half Samoan and Caucasian and has been very supportive of his son throughout his entire football career. Next season BYU fans should expect to see Ho Ching lining up the Cougar offensive backfield as that punishing fullback hammer.

“My personal goals are I want to be that starting fullback,” said Ho Ching. “I want to start come time to play this next season. That’s what I want to do. As of right now it’s looking really well. I’ve talked to Uncle Markie and he’s said some positive things about that, but I just have a long ways to go and need to keep working hard. It’s going to be a long summer but it will be worth it. I expect to reach my goals by the time fall camp comes around and going into this season.”

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