Like 99% of the hundreds of former college football players hoping to be selected in the NFL draft this week, BYU receiver Puka Nacua can’t afford to be picky.

Nacua, 22, is one of those guys expected to go in the later rounds on Saturday, rounds four through seven, or to receive a priority free agent invitation. Some mock drafts have him going as early as the fourth round; others don’t include him at all.

“It has been a blast, and I’ve received a lot of positive feedback. So I feel confident there is a team out there that is looking out for me and will call my name.” — Former BYU receiver Puka Nacua on his NFL draft prospects

But if the former Orem High standout who transferred to BYU from Washington for his final two seasons of college football had the luxury of choosing the team that would call his name when the draft gets underway Thursday in Kansas City, it would be the Green Bay Packers.

“I grew up a huge Packers fan, actually,” Nacua told the Deseret News Friday. “They have always just thrown the ball all over the place, going from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers. I love it.”

Nacua wore jersey No. 12 at BYU, which is the number Rodgers wears, obviously. The Packers QB has long rumored to be headed to the New York Jets in a trade, but as of Monday that had not materialized.

“Anybody who wears No. 12, I am already biased for,” Nacua said. “But I have also loved their receivers, from Greg Jennings to Jordy Nelson to Davante Adams to Donald Driver, they have always had great wide receivers, all with different playing styles. They have always been known for throwing the ball, so that is something that has been attractive to me as a receiver.”

Unfortunately for Nacua, as of last weekend the Packers had not expressed a lot of interest in him throughout the pre-draft process. Plenty of other teams have, however.

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He was one of the Miami Dolphins’ top-30 visits last week, visiting the franchise in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Tuesday and Wednesday. Clubs can bring in up to 30 players for interviews, meetings and a physical, and Nacua says he is grateful to have been picked for one of those coveted spots.

“I have spoken to a good amount of teams,” Nacua said.

The Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks have sent representatives to Provo to work him out, and another workout is scheduled with the Houston Texans.

He’s had Zoom calls with wide receivers coaches of the Jets, Arizona Cardinals and Buffalo Bills. He has also met with the Baltimore Ravens and Carolina Panthers. He watched tape of arguably his best game at BYU — that 31-28 win over Boise State in which he made the game-winning catch on fourth-and-6 from the 6-yard line — with a coach from the Los Angeles Rams.

“It has been a blast, and I’ve received a lot of positive feedback,” he said. “So I feel confident there is a team out there that is looking out for me and will call my name.”

BYU’s other draft hopefuls include quarterback Jaren Hall and offensive tackle Blake Freeland. Running back Chris Brooks and defensive back Kaleb Hayes are considered long shots, but stranger things have happened.

One of the more respected NFL draft analysts, Dane Brugler of The Athletic, ranked Nacua as the No. 222 prospect in the draft recently, and had this to say about the 6-foot-1, 201-pound receiver who was a four-star recruit out of high school:

“Nacua needs to prove he can stay healthy and on the field at the next level, but he is smart, tough and athletic with the locked-in concentration that gives him a fighting chance to earn an NFL roster spot.”

Shortly after declaring for the NFL draft in late December, Nacua began training in Southern California with Hall and others at former BYU QB John Beck’s 3DQB academy in Orange County. He sustained a concussion and was unable to play in the Senior Bowl or do drills at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, but believes he bounced back from those minor setbacks to show scouts what he could do at BYU’s pro day and through the private workouts.

At BYU’s pro day on March 24, he said he had met the most with the Seahawks, Cardinals, Jets, Patriots and Chiefs.

“I play the game super physical, and they love my physicality,” he said. “I have dealt with some injuries, so I am trying to show them I have retained my physicality, but can also stay fast and explosive.”

Nacua caught 91 passes for 1,430 yards and 11 touchdowns in two seasons at BYU. At Washington, he caught 16 passes for 319 yards and three touchdowns before a foot injury slowed his second season and he eventually decided to transfer to BYU to be closer to his family.

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Speaking of that family, Nacua has had the benefit of getting advice from older brothers Kai and Samson, although neither of those former BYU players got the opportunity to go to the Senior Bowl or the NFL combine.

A safety, Kai Nacua finished last season with the Jets and is hoping for an invitation to their camp this summer. A receiver who played at both Utah and BYU, Samson Nacua is currently playing for the Pittsburgh Maulers in the USFL.

“One thing they’ve said over and over again is to try to enjoy the moment and enjoy the process as much as possible,” Nacua said. “It can be grueling and you use up a lot of energy and it is a roller coaster of nerves and emotions, but just have fun and focus on the main things, like getting enjoyment out of the game.”

If he is fortunate enough to land an NFL contract, Nacua said his “first big purchase” will probably be a gaming PC to enhance his playing of Fortnite and Call of Duty. And it would be nice to upgrade his ride, after lots of trips between Vegas and Provo in his Hyundai Santa Fe.

“I am sure everybody pulling up to the facility will have a car that will look a lot better than mine,” he said, laughing. “If and when I get a paycheck that looks like theirs then I will make that purchase.”

Almost the entire Nacua family, except Samson, who has a game, will gather at Kai’s home in Las Vegas for the draft and to get in some pool time, Nacua said. 

“I love Utah, but we will probably all be out there by one of the pools, taking in some sun, relaxing and waiting and hanging out,” he said. “It is guaranteed warmer weather out there than it is in Utah right now.”

It is probably colder all the time in Green Bay, Wisconsin, than either Western locale. But that doesn’t mean BYU’s top receiver in 2022 wouldn’t enjoy getting a call from the Packers.

BYU’s Blake Freeland, left, D’Angelo Mandell, Puka Nacua, an NFL scout, Jaren Hall and another scout look on
BYU’s Blake Freeland, left, D’Angelo Mandell, Puka Nacua, an NFL scout, Jaren Hall and another scout watch BYU’s pro day at the school’s practice facility in Provo on Friday, March 24, 2023. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News