Former Herriman football player Leki Fotu headed to the NFL
Jun 08, 2020 10:23AM
By Justin Adams
By Justin Adams | [email protected]
Herriman High School is turning 10 years old this summer, and as its ranks of alumni continue to grow, those alumni continue to make names for themselves. One such alumnus is Leki Fotu, who was drafted to the NFL in April.
Fotu played football for the Herriman Mustangs for one year after his family moved from California to Utah. Ironically, Fotu was initially drawn to the Herriman area because of the hugely successful rugby program. But Herriman football coaches convinced him to also play football his senior year. And it’s a good thing they did.
Playing defensive end, Fotu tallied 79 tackles and 7.5 sacks as he led the Mustangs to a 5A state championship victory and was later named the 5A MVP by the Deseret News.
“He was fanatical. He only knew one speed,” said Herriman football coach Dustin Pearce of his time spent coaching Fotu. “I never ever coached a kid that ran as well as he did. Very coachable. Very good kid. The ultimate teammate.”
Pearce described Fotu’s leadership style as being quieter and humble, leading by example. That humility, which sets Fotu apart, is apparent when he talks about his time at Herriman High. In an interview with the Herriman Journal, Fotu didn’t mention championships or personal accolades when asked what stood out to him about that year. Instead, he spoke about the friends he made.
“The biggest standout for me was how welcome I felt — moving into a brand-new state and basically having to start all over with no friends. We only had one family that we knew here in Utah. Other than that, everyone was a new face.”
Those high school friendships still endure to this day. Fotu said he still keeps in touch with “his boys” from the 2016 class.
After graduating from Herriman, Fotu moved about 30 miles northeast to continue his education and football career at the University of Utah. He moved from defensive end to defensive tackle and began supplementing his athletic potential with more polished technique under the tutelage of the Utah coaching staff.
“He was really raw when he came to Herriman, but he’s coachable,” Pearce said. “That’s what he was able to do at Utah. That’s as good a coaching staff as there is in the nation.”
After climbing the depth chart his freshman and sophomore year, Fotu established himself as a force on the Ute defensive line during his junior and senior seasons. He earned a spot on the All-Pac-12 team both years and helped lead his team to back-to-back appearances in the conference championship game.
All of Fotu’s years of hard work paid off on April 25 when he was selected by the Arizona Cardinals in the fourth round of the NFL draft.
True to character, when asked what the draft selection meant to him, Fotu didn’t talk about himself but about his family.
“Being drafted is kind of like a payment to my mom for everything she’s done for me and my siblings,” he said. “To have that call on draft day took a huge burden off my mom. It means the world to me to see her reaction.”
As for what it means to Herriman High and the Mustangs football program, Pearce believes it will inspire the current players.
“I feel like it’s really important for our program,” he said. “It gives kids optimism to work hard. If you have potential and work hard, and you’re a good student, it’s a huge thing to be able to show our program.”
While he’ll be playing a whole state away now, Fotu said he won’t soon forget the community that welcomed an out-of-state high school student with open arms.
“Just to have that community, the school, support me — it means a lot to me,” he said. “Whenever I get a chance to come back and give back, I’ll make sure to do that.”