The Trials of a Champion

Many athletes overcome grueling obstacles to achieve success on the field. BYU defensive line recruit Moses Foketi is a perfect example of such an athlete. Nothing came easy for the JC transfer, but that just made success all the sweeter.

It's a good thing for BYU fans that 6-foot, 265-pound Moses Foketi is not just an average person. If he were, he probably wouldn't be one of BYU's newest defensive tackles.

"The funny thing is the reason why I'm so humbled about being able to go to BYU is because I went through a lot," said Foketi. "I had Cal, Washington State, UW [Washington], Oregon and schools like that recruited me out of high school. I was a top recruit coming out of high school but I went to Chabot [Junior College] because my grades were so poor and I didn't pass the ACT. I was supposed to get a high score of 1100 and only got like a 940 so I couldn't pass the [NCAA] clearing house, so I went to Chabot and started four games."

Despite not going D-1, the first four games of Foketi's junior college career started very promising.

"In those four games I had four sacks, 30 tackles, a blocked field goal and four fumble recoveries," Foketi said. "Then I quit playing at Chabot and came to Laney and had to start over. I was out of shape and overweight and during one of our scrimmages I got crack backed so hard and got hurt. I got blind sided so hard and fell on my tail bone and bruised it really bad and was out for five weeks. I had to come back and kind of start over again.

"When I got back I started the game but got ejected and only ended up really playing four games. That is why I am so humbled by all this. There were schools talking to me but no one was really taking me serious or giving me a chance because of being hurt and not being able to produce on the field and stuff like that. Really that's my story and I'm so humble that BYU has given me that one last chance.

"I'm so humbled about this too is because out of the four games and the bowl game I played in I only had three sacks and a couple of tackles and stuff like that, but I was the starter. I got hurt and had to get back to play again. I didn't have much to show for but BYU was pretty much the only school to really put any faith in me and give me a chance."

Foketi gave it his all every play thinking this was the end of his football career. Little did he know that this would catch the eye of BYU coaches who would soon change his career outlook.

"BYU has given me a second chance and that's why I'm working so hard now in school and in football," said Foketi. "I thought football was over for me and looking at my stats and all that I thought who would want to recruit me and I got hurt, so when BYU offered me a scholarship it was really a blessing for me. Coach Mendenhall called me in and told me he loves how I work. He said he loved how I play like I was playing every play like it was my last play in my last game. For me it really was like that because I love the game so much and I thought playing JC football was going to be the end of my career. Coach Mendenhall and BYU have given me another chance.

"It's a really good thing for me. That is why I'm working really hard right now. I work out with the team that's going to be here at Laney for the 06 season, and then I go to school and then I work out again at night. I want to make sure that when I get to BYU that I'm ready and won't be lacking anything when I line up on the D-line."

Working out twice a day is paying off for Foketi. He is putting up some impressive numbers in the weight room that should translate into a strong performance on the field.

"I'm kind of strong," said Foketi. "I can bench press 410 and I can squat 515. My strength is what helped me at Laney because I was stronger than most of the O-line guys I went up against.

"So yeah, I'm ripping it up in the weight room right now and on the track. I want to come out there and contribute right away any way I can. The BYU coaches have confidence in me and that makes me want to work harder, so there's some positive pressure on me to work even harder and try to contribute. I'll be at BYU in August and I receive my AA in May. It's all positive."

Although Foketi saw limited action, Laney coaches used his athleticism to create mismatches against their opponents across the defensive line.

"They switched me around a lot," Foketi said. "Sometimes I would play D-Tackle, and sometimes I would play D-End, and sometimes I play in the middle. They would switch me up. I think that's why Coach Mendenhall recruited me because I could play all around, and I have a nose for the ball and I run to ever play. Even if it's down field or if I'm being double teamed I run to every play.

"Coach Doman was the first guy who came up. He came up and was watching me practice so my coached told me to put on a clinic for him to show him how fast I was and I did all the drills and stuff to put on a little show. Coach Doman was the one to first recruit me, but when I went up there it was BYU's DB coach [Brian Mitchell] who said, ‘This guy can really play.' BYU was looking at my cousin [Martin Akoteu] and that's when they found me. Coach Mendenhall had a staff meeting and they were watching one of my games and saw what I could do. After that they felt they didn't need to watch any more of my games and offered me a scholarship."

Foketi has come a long way to see the look of pride on the face of a patient father who had encouraged him throughout his trials prior to and during his junior college experience.

"On my recruiting trip my dad [Vaionita Foketi] kept looking at me," said Foketi. "When I was little he kind of separated me from everyone thinking I was going to be something. When I was younger I didn't really care much and kind of fell away from the church and got into some trouble, but my dad is a councilor at the Oakland Temple and he just stuck with me. He sat me down and said that I needed to get back into football. If it wasn't for him I don't think I would have overcome all the earlier problems to be where I'm at now. I was able to overcome a lot of things and get back into college at Laney, and even though things didn't work as well on the field there because I got hurt, I'm still going to be able to play at BYU.

"I just want to come to BYU and show them that it's not all about what is shown on paper. I want to go up there and work hard for the people who believed in me."

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