Utah product Simi Fehoko ready to build on ‘learning year’ with the Dallas Cowboys
How Utah high school football, church mission and Stanford helped prepare the former Deseret News Mr. Football for the NFL
FRISCO, Texas — Simi Fehoko considers himself incredibly blessed on several fronts.
The Brighton High product is entering his second season with the Dallas Cowboys, who selected him in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL draft. He appeared in five games as a rookie.
Among his blessings is looking across the locker room and seeing a fellow Utah native in tight end Dalton Schultz, who is currently holding out, as a teammate.
“Yeah, Dalton’s my guy. It’s not only that Utah bond. It’s a Stanford bond,” he said.
“He unfortunately wasn’t there (at Stanford) when I got there, but I played against him in high school. He beat us in the state championship in 2014, unfortunately. He’s a good guy to have in the locker room.”
After a stellar high school career at Brighton and being named the Deseret News Mr. Football in 2015, Fehoko was a four-star recruit to Stanford. He knows playing high school ball in Utah helped prepare him well for the level of competition he would face both in the Pac-12 with the Cardinal and in the NFL.
“It’s honestly prepared us for being here. A lot of the time (in Utah), if you’re pretty good at football, you’re a big fish in a small pond,” Fehoko said.
“I’d say 100% (the talent level in Utah high school football is underrated). You look at it now, you’ve got the Sewell boys (Nephi, Penei and Noah) coming out (of Utah). Every year, we have some freak athletes that come out of Utah.”
Of course, Fehoko’s collegiate career was delayed for two years as he went on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to South Korea, an experience that continues to positively impact him.
“I just had to grow up. I was living on my own for two years in a country that didn’t even have football or know what football was,” he said.
“I just had to mature a lot faster than most. It’s the same thing I feel like for dudes who go straight to college, you’ve still got to mature and grow up. This one was a little different for me just because I was in a country that didn’t speak English.”
While in Seoul, Fehoko learned Korean and studied the language at Stanford. He also visits Koreatown in the Dallas suburb of Carrollton regularly.
Fehoko is also grateful for the opportunity Dallas has given him to play in the NFL and calls his rookie season productive despite appearing in just five games.
“I’d say definitely it’s a learning year. I felt like I got my feet wet learning the offense, build that trust and just get a feel for what it’s like to be in the NFL,” Fehoko said.
“Mostly special teams. I’d played a little bit at Stanford, but obviously with my bigger body and being able to run a little bit faster, it was a shoo-in for (special teams) coach Bones (John Fassel). He just put me in wherever they needed. It’s a good way to get on the field.”
Like any rookie, he had dues to pay with his veteran teammates. His rite of passage made him responsible for making sure his fellow receivers had hot, fresh food on the plane during each road trip, duties he handled with a smile.
“It wasn’t too crazy. A majority of it was Popeyes (chicken) but they wanted it extra hot every time,” he said. “I had to time it just right. (Amari Cooper) wanted hot fries.”
Along with Schultz, Cooper, who was traded to Cleveland in March, helped ease Fehoko’s transition to the NFL more than anyone in Dallas.
“Amari’s my guy. I still talk to him every day,” he said. “He’s a great dude that took me under his wing when I came here.
“It was big for me just to have somebody I could bounce ideas off. He’s a big receiver too, so it helped me being a bigger receiver, too, just to ask him how he does this and him being the route runner that he is, it obviously helped my game.”
Fehoko not only made a strong impression on Cooper, but on each of his colleagues in the Cowboys receiving corps.
“He comes in every day. He goes to work. He’s not a complainer,” said Dallas wide receiver Noah Brown. “He puts his head down and he’s just trying to get better each and every day, taking advantage of his opportunities out there.
“That’s what I see and I like it. I feel like if he just keeps doing what he’s doing, he’ll be in good shape. He’s been the same guy every day. He’s not a loud talker or whatever, but he just comes in and works.”
June 10 marked the final week of organized team activities (OTAs) for the Cowboys, meaning all that remains on the calendar until the start of training camp in late July in Oxnard, California, is a weeklong minicamp.
Once that minicamp concludes, players get some time off, which will give Fehoko and his wife Bailee (they tied the knot the week the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020) the chance to finally go on their long-awaited honeymoon in Hawaii.
“We finally get to do it,” Fehoko said of his honeymoon. “It (my time with the Cowboys) has been good. Dallas, for me has just been a blessing. Me and my wife, it’s like our second home now. We’re glad to be here and my time has been amazing so far. Hope it continues to be amazing.”
Stephen Hunt is a freelance writer based in Frisco, Texas.