Lumpkin on Lui Fuga: "Aggressive"

When the Chargers signed standout nose tackle Jamal Williams to a five-year contract extension, it all but assured that first-round pick Luis Castillo would land at the defensive end position. What it also did was leave the door open behind Jamal Williams, with Ryon Bingham the only "veteran" player competing for the reserve role. Hot on his heels and eager to make in impact is Lui Fuga, the six-foot-one, 301 lb. stud from the University of Hawaii.

Lui Fuga was signed by the Chargers as an undrafted free agent, and chose to sign with San Diego not only because he thought he had a chance to make the team, but because he did not want to stray too far from his family. When he signed with the Chargers he believed he would be competing with Castillo for a roster spot, a more daunting task than most undrafted rookies care to undertake.

George Lumpkin, Fuga's defensive coordinator during his days at Hawaii, is a great supporter of his former pupil. He has seen Fuga take his game to new levels during the times they spent working together, and expects Fuga's rise towards excellence to only continue during his time in San Diego.

"He's a very aggressive player," Lumpkin said. "His game has really evolved. His first two or three years here he was just a hold your point kind of player, you know, just hold your ground at the point of attack. But he lost some weight; he played for us at 295 lbs. By his last year he was much quicker, he was able to swim past his guy."

Lumpkin was not surprised to see Fuga's game take off as it did. During his senior season, Fuga recorded 24 tackles, four quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery. Yet much like the man he hopes to play behind this season, the impact Fuga makes is not upon the stat sheet. He frees up players to make plays.

Fuga is just one of those players who loves the game and is willing to do anything within his powers to be successful playing it. So while his incredible drive is what defines him as a player, it is also something he must keep in check. Sometimes he can get too ambitious and run himself out of plays.

"The only time he has trouble is when he thinks he can make a play," according to Lumpkin," even though that's what you want them to do, he might try and swim past a guy too fast."

This is apparently a flaw the Chargers were willing to overlook when they signed Fuga. After all, discipline can be taught, but the desire to be great must be born within a player. No one can question the desire found within Fuga, who strives so diligently to become a standout performer both on and off the field. Even though his in-game productivity gets him noticed, it is his high character that makes him such an attractive prospect overall.

When asked if he viewed Fuga as a high-character player, Lumpkin was direct in his reply.

"I think he is," Lumpkin said. "I think he's a good representative for your program. He takes care of business."

Of course Fuga still has plenty of business left to take care of. Not only is he making a jump in terms of level of competition, but he is playing in an entirely new defense as well. Before coming to San Diego he had never played in a 3-4 defense, however, he certainly possesses the raw abilities necessary to succeed in such a scheme.

"Here he had to stunt and swim to the center," recalled Lumpkin. "We play a 4-3 here, so he didn't have to deal with lining up over that center. He'll have to prove he can do that, and I think he can."

Fuga still has a tough battle ahead of him, but it is one he is well prepared to fight. The door may not be wide open with a welcome banner on top just yet, but it has been left ajar all the same. All that remains to be seen is if Fuga can force his way through by opening day.

Michael Lombardo can be reached at Lombardo@SanDiegoSports.net


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