Several months from now, “Foley” may be in the National Football League.
Currently, the 300-pound defensive lineman is a standout at the University of Connecticut. He’s also the product of a tight-knit community in the Far Rockaway section of Queens. At UConn, the now-graduate senior recorded 10 sacks over his last two seasons, establishing himself as a premier lineman in the American Athletic Conference.
Before it all, he established an indestructible inner-circle, which he’s maintained for years. Selflessly, he offers his family and friends a lot of credit, and looking back, he’s able to recognize his blessing.
“I know I don’t have a sob story,” Fatukasi told this paper after a Sunday morning practice, one of the final sessions before Thursday’s season opener. “That’s where my blessing lies. The fact that I have great support, it makes me feel like I can’t let them down.”
While attending Channel View School for Research there were “a lot of tears and a lot of happiness” amidst the two-a-day sessions, time on the beach, and countless unforgettable memories.
But it all truly started while attending middle school, when Fatukasi and a friend were coming home from school one day, and were randomly approached by a coach. A simple “do you want to play football?” served as a then unforeseen life-changing icebreaker, and Fatukasi showed up at Far Rockaway at 9 a.m. that Saturday, per request.
He subsequently got his start with the Rockaway Ravens, a youth football program in Queens.
In fact, to this day he’s kept in contact with friends and coaches from those days, and credited all of the people he worked with at the Ravens program with aiding him throughout his football and real-life experiences.
“Every time I go back home I go to my coach’s house, Dexter Archibald,” he said. “His son is my best friend, and coach Dex another father figure, he gives me the X’s and O’s of life. I feel like it’s very important to have a strong support group, and it doesn’t have to be your immediate family.
“At UConn I have my boys that I can just talk to, he added. “Some people think that once you’re in college and have a scholarship that it’s kind of easy, which is a very big misconception.”
No, it’s not easy.
Fatukasi, who graduated from UConn this past spring and has one year of NCAA eligibility left, is currently working on completing the required coursework for his sociology major, thus leaving Storrs with a dual degree next year, having already earned his Bachelor’s in Communications.
Though football is the focus now, you can quickly tell that there’s more to the Queens native than that.
While at UConn he’s been involved with the Collective Uplift club, created by Dr. Joseph Cooper. The club’s mission is to empower, educate, inspire and support ethnic minorities at the University to maximize their potential as holistic individuals within and beyond athletic contexts.
Fatukasi has taken advantage of this, saying the club has assisted him on many levels.
“This group has been a big part of my life because they really just help me figure out myself holistically, like who is Foley without football,” he said. “I know I’m not perfect, but I believe in God, I believe in Christ. I try to live that way and it’s tough, I’m human. I want to affect the world somehow, especially nowadays because there’s a lot of scary things happening in the world.”
Fatukasi, only two years removed from recording 7.5 sacks in a season, could play himself into being a viable DT option for one of many pro teams in next spring’s draft. But if you ask him, the current priority is to win for the Huskies.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about the NFL, but my main goal this year is to make sure my teammates and I go as far as we possibly can this season,” he said modestly. “If we don’t do well this season, how can I even think about the NFL?
“Honestly, one word – win,” he added when asked of his goals this season. “No one plays a sport, or does anything, to lose. No one does anything to lose. UConn expects to win, and that’s exactly what we expect to do when we go out there.”
Fatukasi and the Huskies begin their season on Thursday, August 31, at home against Holy Cross University. Locally, the game will be televised on SNY, where many UConn games are available throughout the college football season.