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Fangupo Gets Second Chance at DI Football

July 11, 2015, 3:12 PM HST
* Updated July 11, 3:17 PM
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David Fangupo’s road to Division I football was supposed to start two years ago at the University of Hawai’i. After not qualifying and going to a junior college, the Kealakehe High School graduate will finally get his chance to play at the Football Bowl Subdivision level when he joins the Utah Utes in 2016.

Fangupo, a 2013 graduate at Kealakehe, finished his high school career as a popular internet sensation. He was a near-350 pound offensive and defensive lineman that then-coach Sam Papalii decided to use as fullback in his run-heavy offense. Some of his biggest plays, which usually involved punishing wannabe tacklers, made it to YouTube, which has picked up over 140,000 views. Former ESPN.com writer Rick Reilly even did a feature story on him.

One important thing set Fangupo back from playing at the University of Hawai’i: his SAT score.

“While I was at Kealakehe, I had to take my SAT, and my SAT scores weren’t high enough to go to a Division I at the time,” Fangupo said. “So, I had to go the junior college route. It’s a little bit harder, but it’s really worth it, because I really do love football, and I love going to school, so I just didn’t want to give up on my dream.”

Cerritos College in Norwalk, Calif. would be the JUCO destination for Fangupo. He recorded 33 tackles and two sacks in nine games for the Falcons. His collegiate future would change on June 27, though, when he attended Utah’s Long Beach, Calif. satellite camp.

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“Luckily, God blessed me that Utah saw that I’m still doing something right, I guess, on the football field and in the classroom, and they decided to offer me a scholarship,” Fangupo said about that day, where he committed to head coach Kyle Whittingham on the spot.

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It helped that there was a familiar name coaching at Utah: assistant coach Lewis Powell. Formerly a defensive line coach at Hawai’i, Powell moved over to Utah to work with the tight ends, and both kept in touch since the recruitment phase at Hawai’i.

Fangupo may not get the chance to run the football again, as he’ll likely concentrate on the defensive line, but he doesn’t care. He wants to do anything it takes to get on the field, even pass out water, if that’s what it takes.

Now that he has committed to Utah, he still has one more decision to make. He could either sit out a year and transfer to Utah, or play his final season at Cerritos before transferring to play at Utah immediately. He is still in the process of making that decision.

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“Honestly, it’s still an ongoing process in my heart and my mind,” Fangupo explained. “I really want to play because I really love my team. My team this year is young, so they’re really getting after it. I want to be a part of that. That’s really what’s pulling me to play.

Physically, Fangupo isn’t the same since he left Kealakehe. When he got to Cerritos, he weighed over 400 pounds, earning the nickname “Hometown” from an assistant, who knew his love for food. Since that time, he has brought his weight down to about 325 pounds.

Of course he misses the food at home, but he misses his family more, including his son who is back in the islands. He also has a daughter in California, where he currently resides. “I miss all my family back home. Coming from Kealakehe, the culture there is unbelievable, and I really do miss my family.”

Eyes are now on the bigger prize, a chance to make a living out of playing the sport he loves, one of the biggest allures to committing to Utah.

“They have some of the best D-lineman in the NFL, and they have [produced the most] NFL players…” said Fangupo in a phone interview. “I love football so much and I hope I can get into the NFL.”

For now, Fangupo has one more season at Cerritos. The Falcons open the 2015 season at Saddleback JC on Sept. 5.

 

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