Few receivers in BYU football history are as undervalued as Neil Pau’u, perhaps because the former high school quarterback was never the go-to guy in the Cougars’ offense.

Pau’u, who started his career as a walk-on, was overshadowed by the likes of tight ends Matt Bushman and Isaac Rex and receivers Aleva Hifo, Gunner Romney, Puka Nacua, Micah Simon, Talon Shumway and Dax Milne during his time at BYU.

But Pau’u finished his four-season BYU career (he sat out in 2019) with 123 catches for 1,484 yards and 13 touchdowns. That ranks him No. 22 on BYU’s career receptions list and No. 33 on BYU’s career receiving yardage list.

“My 40 (time) is kind of a knock on me, but I think I was able to recover with the shuttle (4.1 seconds), the L drill (6.95 seconds) and my routes. I think (scouts) were able to see that the 40 is not my strong suit. But they were able to see all the other things I can do.” — BYU receiver Neil Pau’u at pro day

Shortly after BYU’s 31-28 loss to UAB in the Independence Bowl, Pau’u announced on Twitter that he would forego his final season of eligibility (an extra year granted by the NCAA because of COVID-19) and declare for the 2022 NFL draft.

It wasn’t a surprise, considering that the 6-foot-3, 212-pound Pau’u had accepted an invitation to play in the Hula Bowl a week prior to that.

“I wouldn’t change a thing that happened to me and the teams I’ve been a part of while here,” Pau’u wrote. “We have had ups and downs, but most importantly had fun while doing it.”

The draft begins Thursday night in Las Vegas and runs through Saturday. Pau’u probably won’t hear his name called during the seven rounds, but should get an opportunity as an undrafted free agent or at least receive an invitation for a mini-camp tryout.

Even though he only played in 10 games in 2021, Pau’u led the Cougars with 46 receptions for 526 yards and six touchdowns.

At BYU’s pro day in late March, the native of Santa Ana, California, said after the season ended he continued to rehab a foot he fractured during Senior Day against Idaho State and then trained in Pennsylvania to get ready for the draft.

He said he was “close” to being fully healthy.

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“There is some agility stuff, moving laterally, that gets me a little sore and stuff,” he said. “But for the most part I was 100% and feeling good.”

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His time in the 40-yard dash was 4.71 seconds — not the best for a receiver, but Pau’u said speed was never his big thing at BYU. It was crisp route running and physicality. 

“My 40 (time) is kind of a knock on me, but I think I was able to recover with the shuttle (4.1 seconds), the L drill (6.95 seconds) and my routes,” he said. “I think (scouts) were able to see that the 40 is not my strong suit. But they were able to see all the other things I can do.”

Pau’u, who is the younger brother of former BYU linebacker Butch Pau’u, now an assistant coach at Snow College, said his strengths are his catch radius and physicality out of breaks.

“I think that (physicality) is the biggest thing that I rely on to get open, anyway, and so just coming out here and being able to show that was cool,” he said after catching passes from former BYU backup QB Baylor Romney.

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