BYU slot receiver Aleva Hifo hopes blazing 40-yard dash time, punt return skills lead to NFL opportunity
Cougars’ four-year starter at slot receiver probably won’t be selected in this week’s NFL draft, but he’s hoping to sign a preferred free agent deal and latch onto a team due to his speed and special teams prowess
PROVO — BYU’s football roster is rarely loaded with speedsters, but one of the topics of conversation when players are just shooting the breeze with each other or media members after practice is which Cougar is the fastest on the team.
During the 2019 season, names such as Micah Simon, Beau Tanner, Isaiah Herron and even Zayne Anderson were tossed around in that regard. Rarely was Aleva Hifo’s name brought up, because, well, he’s a slot receiver. They are known for being quick, but not all that fast.
Then Hifo ran a blazing time of 4.41 seconds in a makeshift pro day in Colorado a few weeks ago, and perceptions have changed. The performance, captured on video by his representative, Utah-based agent Evan Brennan, caught the attention of several NFL scouts and got the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Hifo some interviews relatively late in the scouting process.
“I am probably going to be an undrafted priority free agent. That’s what I have been told by some of the teams I have talked to. For me, it is going to be all about finding the right opportunity.” — BYU receiver Aleva Hifo
Hifo’s run was not clocked electronically, but with a stopwatch by former Buffalo Bills scout Brad Forsyth, causing some naysayers that it wasn’t legitimate because it was not laser-timed. But BYU receivers coach Fesi Sitake quickly noted on Twitter that most pro days don’t include laser-timing, and Hifo’s speed is legit.
“I was happy with it,” Hifo told the Deseret News last week. “That is what I was aiming to do, and I did it. Running a 4.41, I wasn’t surprised.”
It will be a surprise if Hifo’s name is called this week when the NFL draft begins Thursday, and he knows that. He’s not showing up on any mock drafts; Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay aren’t talking about him on ESPN’s almost-daily draft updates.
But the senior from Menifee, California, who watched his cousin, linebacker Sione Takitaki, get drafted last year by the Cleveland Browns remains undeterred.
“I am probably going to be an undrafted priority free agent,” said Hifo, who was selected to play in the 2020 Hula Bowl in Hawaii. “That’s what I have been told by some of the teams I have talked to. For me, it is going to be all about finding the right opportunity.”
Brennan, who also represents former BYU players Moroni Laulu-Pututau and Dayan Ghanwoloku, said video of Hifo’s workout and other numbers from his workout in Colorado went out to all 32 NFL teams, and the feedback has been positive.
“There’s definitely some interest in him,” Brennan said.
Hifo caught 118 passes for 1,336 yards and seven touchdowns in his four-year BYU career, but it just might be his work as a punt returner that lands him a shot in an NFL minicamp. In 2019, he returned 15 punts for 232 yards, with a long of 52.
He also had 23 carries for 104 yards and two TDs, getting the ball on fly sweeps. Of course, Hifo also threw the touchdown pass to Laulu-Pututau his junior year on the gadget play called “Bucky” that helped beat No. 6 Wisconsin, 24-21.
“Aleva is very similar to Dayan, except on the offensive side,” Brennan said. “His ticket (to the NFL) might be on special teams. There are not a lot of true punt returners out there. He can be a receiver, obviously, a kick returner. But he has experience as a punt returner, and that is hard to find — a guy who can do all three well. And that makes him very versatile.”
After catching six passes for 55 yards and returning three punts for 97 yards in the 38-34 loss to Hawaii in the bowl game, Hifo put his quest for a degree in exercise and wellness — he’s got one semester remaining — on hold and headed to Colorado to train at Landow Performance in Englewood.
He returned to Utah a few weeks ago and has been training with Takitaki, Ghanwoloku and former Cougar Harvey Langi of the New York Jets in a neighborhood gym in Orem.
They’ve had to make a few adjustments due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Hifo said he’s in the best shape of his life, which helped him throw down the eye-popping 40 time.
“It’s been a great experience, and we’ve gotten in a lot of good work,” he said. “Those guys (Takitaki and Langi) know what it takes, and they’ve been a good resource for me. All I want is an opportunity, whether that’s the NFL or any other (league). I’m not done playing.”
Hifo said he’s always been a San Francisco 49ers fan, so it would be fun to be reunited with linebacker Fred Warner in the City by the Bay. He patterns his game after quick, shifty slot receivers such as Tyreek Hill, Julian Edelman and Golden Tate.
Hifo didn’t get invited to the NFL combine in February, but neither did Hill, who recently helped the Kansas City Chiefs win the Super Bowl. After Hill ran a reported 4.29 in the 40-yard dash at West Alabama’s pro day, the Chiefs took him in the fifth round and made him their primary kick returner his rookie season.
Now he’s one of the top receivers in the league.
“There’s always hope,” Hifo said. “Guys have done it before.”
The Hula Bowl is proud to announce that Aleva Hifo has agreed to play in the 2020 Hula Bowl. We are pleased to have him join us in Hawaii for the interview of his life. He will have the opportunity to showcase his talents before the NFL, CFL, & XFL. See you in Hawaii! pic.twitter.com/CZZeLO3M6X— Hula Bowl (@Hula_Bowl) November 28, 2019