James Empey and Uriah “Lopa” Leiataua recently finished standout college football careers playing in the trenches for the BYU football team, Empey on the offensive line and Leiataua on the defensive line.

They are also dispelling notions that the “big hogs” up front aren’t among the smartest players on a football team. After receiving honors from one of the most prestigious college sports organizations in the country when it comes to academics last week, Empey and Leiataua are arguably the smartest players on the team this year.

Empey and Leiataua both participated in BYU’s pro day last month and are hoping to hear their names called next week during the NFL draft in Las Vegas. Last week, the former Cougars gave NFL scouts and general managers even more to think about when they were recognized by the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame as members of the 2022 NFF Hampshire Honor Society.

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The honor society is made up of college football players from all divisions who maintained a cumulative grade point average of 3.2 or better throughout their college careers and were a starter or significant contributor. In other words, benchwarmers need not apply.

BYU, which has had 67 honorees, continues to rank No. 1 among Football Bowl Subdivision programs with the most honorees since the society’s inception in 2007.

More than 1,500 players from 314 schools qualified for membership in the society this year. BYU is one of five FBS schools to have had a player honored every year the past 16 years.

Empey, a Freshman All-American in 2018 from American Fork, graduated with a 3.84 GPA as a finance major and minor in nonprofit management.

Leiataua, who is from Compton, California, played in 49 career games and all 13 in 2021 as a fifth-year senior. He is a former Wuerffel Trophy and AFCA Good Works candidate and played a big role in BYU’s True Blue Hero program.

Leiataua has said that if professional football does not work out, he will attend law school.