SALT LAKE CITY — Leki Fotu is an enormous, powerful human being. To wit, the University of Utah senior was aptly described as “an absolute mountain of a man” in an ESPN article. The former Herriman High player is so big — 6-foot-5, 335 pounds, that’s how BIG — that Miracle Max of “The Princess Bride” fame would have no qualms giving the defensive lineman a “You are the brute squad!” size description like he did to Fezzik, aka Andre the Giant.

Fotu even has a big head of hair and wears the biggest number possible: 99.

Fortunately for Utah’s football team, Fotu isn’t the only member of the Utes’ brute squad. To name just one other — of a handful — Fotu’s sizable shadow and sidekick John Penisini is 6-foot-2 and 330 pounds (or so).

These two inseparable friends are nearly impossible to miss when they hang out together at the football facilities, around campus or anywhere else they go — and that’s the case even if Fotu isn’t sporting his oft-mocked-but-even-more-often-worn lime green Crocs (more on those later).

“We pretty much do everything together,” Penisini said. “Everyone sees both of us together all the time.”

With that in mind, imagine what restaurant employees might think when Fotu and Penisini step into their establishments to participate in one of their favorite hobbies: eating.

“We mostly eat out a lot,” Penisini said, laughing, while talking about their tight bond.

“We try to limit the junk food during the season,” Fotu added. “But every now and then we go to McDonald’s and we put up a show there.”

Penisini admitted they’ll sometimes order up to 10 breakfast burritos along with a tray full of other greasy grub. A regular McMeal for Fotu includes two plain McDoubles with Mac sauce, two McChicken sandwiches with extra mayo, four hash browns, two sausage burritos and a large order of fries.

“That’s why I’m pretty fat right now,” Penisini joked.

Fast-food joints and the football program’s cafeteria aren’t the only places where these best buddies put on an impressive show, of course.

The big boys are integral parts of Utah’s defensive line, which is setting the tone for one of the stingiest defenses in the nation.

With Fotu, Penisini, Bradlee Anae and Mika Tafua leading the way up front, the Utes have dominated most offenses. They’ve only allowed 13.2 points per game (eighth-least in the nation) and given up just 27 points combined in the second half of all six games. No team has rushed for more than 100 yards against their D, which only allows 52.8 yards per game (second-best in the nation).

“They’re very talented. We’ve got NFL guys up front,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “Leki Fotu, I think, is the best defender in the Pac-12 as far as in the front seven.

“Bradlee Anae is right there with him. And John Penisini is the guy that’s way underrated. He’s a tremendous player.”

You wouldn’t necessarily know that simply by looking at the stats. Don’t be deceived by the fact Fotu only has 11 tackles this fall. Half of those were for a loss, and his presence is felt by the opposition on almost every possession, whether by how he plugs up holes, gives teammates more freedom thanks to double-teams or makes himself at home in the backfield by manhandling his way through offensive linemen.

Penisini couldn’t have handpicked a better BFF (best football friend) to play next to on the line.

“He’s a great dude, a great leader and he definitely has that presence of just a big monster, plugging up the holes,” Penisini said of Fotu. “I think teams have to game plan around him because he can do multiple things with pressuring the passer and stuffing the run.”

Penisini might be a bit biased, but he’s expecting a long, productive NFL career for his teammate.

“Top draft pick,” he predicted. “Yeah, NFL.”

Whether that happens remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt the mammoth of a lineman will be coveted by just about the entire league. He was picked as a midseason second-team All-American by the Associated Press.

“As dominant as Fotu has been up front, his best football is ahead of him,” ESPN’s Chris Low wrote earlier this fall. “And there’s a reason Utah coach Kyle Whittingham doesn’t shy away from mentioning Fotu and former Utah great Luther Ellis in the same sentence.”

Fotu credits guys who’ve paved his way on Utah’s D-line for helping him out when he was an underclassman. He’d learn from their successes and struggles. He’d listen to their tips and implement the changes. He saw how hard they worked in practice.

He came to an exciting realization the better and more experienced he got. That being: “If everything goes the right way and I take everything serious, I can have a long career with this.”

Fotu’s motivation to work hard enough to contribute to his current team and carve out a lucrative future is as pure as it gets. His drive comes from his family — from his mom, Toa Fotu, to his brothers David (Utah), Joe (Illinois) and Anthony (Arizona), and the list goes on.

“Just trying to do something special for them. They’ve been through a lot of ups and downs,” said Fotu, who moved to Utah in high school and converted from being a rugby player. “This is my way of trying to pay them back, especially my mom — for everything she’s done for me. Everything I’m doing now — at the end of the season, when that time comes again, I hope everything pays off.”

With as well as he and the Utes are playing, Fotu’s decision to return his final season at Utah appears to be paying off. If nothing else, this is giving him more time to hang out with Penisini. That seems to be a good thing — for his personal and future professional life.

“That’s my guy right there. He plays right next to me on my right side. He’s my right-hand man right there,” Fotu said of Penisini. “On the field, he’s super smart football-wise. He helps me with any questions that I have with my technique or the formations or the offense. John is one of the hardest workers on the team. He doesn’t get the recognition as some of us on the defense do, but if you sit down and watch tape and just watch him you’ll see how explosive and how great of a player he really is. Every day we compete, we joke around and stuff. We grow as a player and just men in general, to be better at life.”

And, yeah, to destroy massive amounts of food together.

“Sometimes when we go inside to eat, we get the stares,” Fotu said, laughing.

Not that he cares about stares. He’s so big, he’s used to it by now. Having a large pal makes him even more noticeable.

Despite Penisini’s enormous stature, Fotu is easier to spot — and not just because he’s a moving mountain, a one-man brute squad and a big monster, or however you want to describe him. Those Crocs — a fashion statement or misstatement, depending on your point of view — can’t be missed.

Fotu’s penchant for wearing Crocs became a running joke on the football team last year when he didn’t leave home without his black pair of cushy, well-vented foam shoes that he kept wearing despite quite a bit of wear and tear. In August, a friend gave him a new pair as a birthday present.

“She thought it was time to upgrade. She wanted to pick a color that stood out. It’s lime green,” Fotu said, chuckling. “If you see me walking around, you can see it from miles away. I wear those green ones. I throw them with everything. I’m not really a dress-up guy, shorts and Crocs. I love Crocs. They’re comfy.”

Neither of the talented defensive linemen are too proud to admit they also love Big Mac sauce. Penisini laughed when asked if it was the secret sauce for their success.

“That’s the best sauce,” he said. “That’s the secret sauce to help us play well on Saturdays.”