When Michigan State opens up the 2011 football season against Youngstown State there is going to be a new person protecting Kirk Cousins’ blindside.  That person might just be incoming junior college transfer, Fou Fonoti.

 

            At 6’5” and weighing more than 300 lbs Fonoti has the size to compete right away in the Big Ten.  Combine that with his quick feet and incredible tenacity you have the makings of a prototypical left tackle with the potential to keep Kirk’s jersey very clean this season.  When asked about his biggest strengths, Fonoti was typically humble.  He refused to list anything specific, reiterating a common theme that he doesn’t like to talk himself-up.  He said, “I’m just working hard to try and get better.”

 

            Fou was more willing to talk about his weaknesses than he was his strengths.  He especially said that he wants to work on maintaining his aggression through the play.  He said that sometimes when he watches film he’ll notice that he isn’t quite finishing the play like he expects himself to.  “There are times where I drove a guy just enough to let the running back through, but I need to finish him,” he said.  “I need to keep pushing, or drive him into the ground, I need to finish the play every time.”  But in the end, Fou wanted to let everyone know that he isn’t a dirty player.  “I want to drive the guy across from me into the field, but I’ll pick him up and say ‘good game’ every time.”  It’s no wonder Mark Dantonio wanted Fou on his team, his attitude reflects his new head coach’s to the letter.

 

            Many Spartan fans may know Fou because of his connection to former Spartan and NFL football players Tupe and Domata Peko.  These three grew up together in California, and have a lot in common.  But there is one notable difference, Fou isn’t sporting the long locks that Domata became well known for having.  Fou offers a pretty simple explanation for that difference though, “My grandpa told me long hair was for girls.  So I have short hair now.”  Let’s just hope Domata doesn’t hear that remark.

 

            When speaking about his chances this upcoming fall Fonoti took a particularly level-headed approach.  “I don’t want anything given, I want to compete for everything,” he said.  Fou continued, “If I come in and do what I’m taught and take the coaching then, God willing, I can have that starting job.”

 

            Fonoti also spoke regarding his style of play.  “I play with a lot of passion,” he said.  But that doesn’t mean he’s out of control on the field, however.  He elaborated, “I may not show it (passion) as much, because I just like to stay calm and collected.  I try to make sure I stay focused.”  There’s no doubt that the ability to keep his excitement in check will be absolutely necessary when he comes up against the talented crop of defensive linemen he will be seeing this season.

 

            When asked if there were any players that he studied to try to get better Fou explained that his Sundays watching NFL games aren’t quite the same as a typical fan’s.  “I watch a lot of guys in the NFL to see how they play,” he said.  “I watch those guys to see if what I’m doing is what they’re doing.  When I’m watching I think to myself, ‘if he can do it, hopefully with some effort I can too.”  But he was also quick to point out that he isn’t simply going to copy other players, he’s going to work to carve out his own path, matter-of-factly stating:  “I don’t try to be anybody else.” 

 

             It was obvious in speaking with Fou that he truly does love the game of football.  His excitement clearly grew as he talked about strategy and technique for offensive lineman.  “Lowest man wins,” he stared.  “I love to get off the ball and just drive.”  He continued, “and in pass blocking I just love to come through with a punch, and knock a guy back.”  As his intensity continued to grow about the topic it left no doubt in my mind that Fou Fonoti has the heart and love of the game to make it at Michigan State.

 

Fonoti was mostly recruited by offensive line coach, Mark Staten, whom he said he had developed “friendship and a bond” with.  He also gushed when talking about Mark Dantonio and the atmosphere he has created in East Lansing.  “I don’t know what else I can say about this man, he’s a strong person, very humble, and I just felt the whole Michigan State environment matched me.  It just felt right.”

 

He also had very high praise for the entire coaching staff, speaking highly of not only their relationships with players, but also their intensity.  “When I came for my visit,” he explained, “I was able to watch them practice before the bowl game.  And, man, they know what they’re doing out there!”  He continued, “The tempo is quick and the intensity is always there.  I just have the highest respect for those that work hard, and they really work hard.”

 

But the coaches and atmosphere weren’t the only thing that drew Fou to MSU.  He was also extremely excited about a somewhat strange item:  snow.  “With the snow, me being from California, I was like ‘oh man, this is something new!’”  While this may not be the attitude most Michiganders hold towards snow (which is usually somewhere between disdain and loathing), Fou is in for a treat for the months of November through February.

 

But football isn’t the only thing in Fonoti’s life.  He’s looking to major in something relating to criminal justice while at MSU.  He explained that he wanted an opportunity to “give back” and that criminal justice was a great avenue to do that.

 

Also, Fonoti has a strong faith which has guided him through his life.  “I was born and raised in church, my grandfather was a pastor in my church.”  He continued, “That’s one thing I’ve never lost, is my faith.  I truly believe God is the reason this is all possible for me and I’m truly thankful.”

 

But what really came through about Foniti was his humility.  “I’m not the type to brag,” he said.  It was very impressive to hear a young man as talented as Fou consistently shy away from praise, and give credit to others.  “I’m just thankful for every opportunity I get,” he said, and it was readily apparent that he meant every word.

 

Now that Fou is going to play at Michigan State, it still hasn’t sunk in.  “I’m truly honored to hear people say ‘Oh man, you’re a Spartan now!’” he explained.  Fonoti is definitely a Spartan, and the entire Spartan Nation should be excited to see what he can do.

 

This is reprinted from the Spartan Nation Magazine from June, 2011.  If you are not a subscirber email SpartanNationMail@yahoo.com and simply put in the subject line Spartan Nation Magazine and send us your name.  It is 100% FREE!