SALT LAKE CITY — At 6-foot-5 and 335 pounds, Utah defensive tackle Leki Fotu is a mountain of a man. That’s not to say, however, he’s like a big piece of stone with limited mobility. Far from it, as a matter of fact.

Fotu’s athleticism for his size is the first thing defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley had to say about the former Herriman High star. During his 45 career games with the Utes, Fotu racked up 85 tackles (including 18 for loss and 4.5 sacks) during a collegiate career that also included a pair of forced fumbles and a recovery.

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“Not only is he a run stopper but he’s got the athleticism to be a solid pass rusher for you,” Scalley said. “He’s played rugby at a high level, which has allowed him to move and work on that athleticism.”

“He’s as good of a run stuffer as we’ve ever had here at Utah and on top of that he’s extremely bright as well.” — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham

Scalley added that Fotu is also a great leader. He served as a team captain in 2019. 

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham also has high praise for the NFL prospect.

“Leki Fotu is a force inside. He’s immovable. He’s a big, strong kid — light on his feet,” he said, while adding that Fotu demands double-team coverage. “He’s as good of a run stuffer as we’ve ever had here at Utah and on top of that he’s extremely bright as well.”

In a recent interview with USA Today, Fotu said his first two years with the Utes could be classified as learning experiences. Fotu played defensive end at Herriman and was moved inside at Utah, where he had to gain weight and learn a new position.

“The transition really started to pay during that junior year. That’s when I really started to see a future for myself in football,” Fotu said. “I realized that I really had some potential. Spent those first two years laying down the foundation to become the player that I am today.”

Fotu explained that he returned for his senior year to improve his draft stock and to show NFL teams that he could play at the highest level. 

It paid off. Fotu earned an invitation to the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine. The opportunities led to contact with all 32 teams. He had 21 reps in the bench press at the combine, where he posted a time of 5.15 in the 40 despite having a sore hamstring.

“I was still thankful to meet all of the coaches who took time out to get to know me,” Fotu told USA Today. “It was a really good experience for me.”

“You don’t really see a defensive tackle with my movement skills come around too often. I have confidence in my game. I’m going to do my job and make my mark felt at the next level.” — Leki Fotu

Fotu added that his hamstring has since healed and he was prepared to do everything at Utah’s pro day on March 26 had the event not been canceled due to coronavirus concerns.

As the draft approaches, inquiries take place on FaceTime or the telephone — although Fotu did visit the Philadelphia Eagles before things shut down. Several other meetings were planned. Fotu said the Broncos, Cardinals, Chargers, Rams and Seahawks were among those scheduled.

“I’m excited to make a huge impact at the next level. Whichever team drafts me, their defensive line just got a whole lot bigger,” Fotu continued. “I’m a big man that plays the defensive tackle position at a high level. You don’t really see a defensive tackle with my movement skills come around too often. I have confidence in my game. I’m going to do my job and make my mark felt at the next level.”

Fotu was part of a starting defensive line that may have been the best in the nation last season. Bradlee Anae and John Penisini were the other seniors in the group, while Mika Tafua was the lone underclassmen.

•. •. •

What they’re saying about Leki Fotu

NFL.COM: “Good backup could become a starter.”

BLEACHER REPORT: 4th round — 111th overall — Houston Texans

CBS SPORTS: 5th round, 155th overall — Minnesota Vikings

DRAFTSITE: 4th round, 119th overall — Atlanta Falcons

DRAFTTEK: 3rd round, 78th overall — Atlanta Falcons

PRO FOOTBALL NETWORK: 3rd round, 101st overall — Seattle Seahawks

SPORTING NEWS: 3rd round, 90th overall — Houston Texans

USA TODAY: 4th round, 113th overall — Carolina Panthers