Fonoti eager to show scouts what he can do

Former MSU offensive tackle has been hard at work getting ready for Michigan State's pro day since the Spartans won the Rose Bowl. He talks about his past couple months, from Pasadena to Cincinnati to Naples to East Lansing.

As Michigan State prepared for its 2013 campaign, the offense was a question mark at nearly every position.

While the offensive line was more set than others, offensive tackle Fou Fonoti was working out at guard and center as the group was sought the best combination.

Now, it's that time in practice that might serve him well as he looks to impress NFL teams – which have been pleased with his versatility.

"I know my agent (Blake Baratz) has definitely talked with some," he said. "They all talk about loving my versatility and being able to play anything. I don't have my mind set on just playing tackle. I'm ready for guard or center.

"Whatever they put in front of me, I'm willing to show them I can do it."

Fonoti graduated from Michigan State with his degree in criminal justice in December, an opportunity afforded him after unfortunately breaking his foot early in the 2012 season gave him the chance to come back for the 2013 season.

That same broken foot also increased his chances of playing at the next level, as he said he probably would have wound up being just a practice squad player without the added experience.

"Coming back this extra year just gave me more experience underneath my belt, a bigger showcase to play on and God-willing, coming back just bettered my chances and my opportunity of getting drafted," he said.

It also put Fonoti in a spot to end his career at home in Los Angeles with a Rose Bowl win – a win he said still hasn't hit him.

"The days after, realistically, me and my family just sat around and said, ‘I can't believe you guys just won the Rose Bowl," he said. "That journey was amazing."

His next journey of pursuing football at the professional level got started as he signed with the Minneapolis-based and family focused Institute For Athletes, which also represents former Spartan Will Gholston (Tampa Bay Buccaneers). He then got connected with Ignition Athletic Performance Group just outside Cincinnati in Mason, Ohio.

It was the praise he heard about Ignition and the faith-based philosophy that drew him in.

"They only have a small amount of guys," he said. "I was thinking about one-on-one places and that was critical to me. I ended up going up there and it was great. They did a great job in just preparing us for what to expect."

Being just outside Cincinnati also gave him a chance to spend time with his cousin, Domata Peko, also a former Michigan State player and current Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle. The two shared dinner and Fonoti took the time to pick the mind of the nine-year NFL veteran.

"He was huge in providing me with some advice on what to expect with the whole process and pro day," Fonoti said. "He continues to tell me to control what I can control."

An NFL Combine invitation was one of the things that Fonoti could not control and one didn't come his way.

Like any player who doesn't receive an invite, Fonoti said there was a degree of frustration, but he was "the biggest cheerleader" for anyone he knew at the combine.

"One thing they say at Ignition is ‘No Combine invite, no problem,'" he said. "That was just huge in understanding that I've gotta play with more a chip on shoulder."

So while four of his teammates from Michigan State were getting ready to work out in front of NFL scouts in Indianapolis, Fonoti was headed to Naples, Fla., to work out at the second site of Ignition.

The 10-day trip in February gave Fonoti and four others the chance to change the scenery, continuing working on their games and also put on a speed and agility camp for high schoolers.

"Ignition does a really good job in the work we have to get done, we definitely get the work done," he said. "At the same time, they find time for us to go out and do community service. We linked up with a local pastor down in the city and went to pass out blankets and some food. It was just good fellowship with people.

"It was a huge advantage to be able to take your mind off of training and be able to help others in need."

But he will have his chance to show what he can do and try to impress soon enough. Fonoti will head back to East Lansing on Wednesday to get ready for the Spartans' March 11 pro day.

"I just want to go up there and show these scouts that I'm hungry for an opportunity," he said. "Whatever I can do to better my chances and improve my draft stock, I'm going to do. Whatever they want me to do, I'm going to take on that challenge and go up there and just show my athleticism.

"I'll show them that the two months of work is definitely paying off and being able to carry over and go out there and be a complete athlete, be relaxed and God-willing, put on a great performance."

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