Steelers nose tackle Loni Fangupo underwent a culture shock after moving from a farm in the Pacific Islands to Los Angeles when he was 17.
The plane ride scared him. The traffic on the 405 was intimidating. But he noted the difference in food as well. Not just what selections there were, but the ease of it, according to a feature story written by Teresa Varley of Steelers.com.
"In America, you can go to a window and people will give you food," Fangupo told Varley.
He was barely in the United States for an hour when he found one of his true loves; hamburgers.
"I remember getting off that freeway when I first arrived in America, and we stopped at a Jack In The Box. We drove up to a window. My uncle asked what I wanted to eat, and I still only spoke a little English. I asked him if there are chickens or lambs there, and he said they had hamburgers, and that hamburgers came from a cow. I had never eaten cow that was shaped in a circle before, and when I took a bite of it, let me tell you I had hearts flying around my eyes. I fell in love right away."
He also noted his first experience with an all-you-can-eat buffet, and his amazement when his cousins went back for more. "That place was my first love," Fangupo joked with Varley. "I thought, yeah, all I can eat. I went from a fullback to a defensive lineman in no time. I transformed that quick."
His transformation is still underway with the Steelers. Working on the practice squad, considering he played at three different colleges and the Steelers are his third NFL team, what he's accomplished so far is pretty impressive. With the changes going on along the Steelers defensive line right now - Ziggy Hood was benched for Cameron Heyward, Brett Keisel's age and Al Woods being essentially the only back-up at nose tackle (probably not his best position) - he'll likely just use the same determination he's showed in his football career to this point.
Varley wrote about how Fangupo managed to get a scholarship to USC. Some players talk about how hard they had to fight to get the attention of a coaching staff. Not many had to scale a wall to break into practice to speak to a coach directly.
That's what Fangupo did. After not receiving a response to several letters sent to USC, he literally climbed over a wall during a Trojans practice to speak with coaches. And this wasn't your garden variety retaining wall, it was 10 feet high - the kind of wall built to keep people on one side of it.
Upon landing on the other side, Fangupo sought out USC defensive coordinator Nick Holt. Fangupo introduced himself to Holt.
"I told him I’m the one who is going to replace No. 75 (Fili Moala) who was going to the NFL that year," he said. Moala was a second-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in the 2009 NFL Draft. "I told him I’m there to replace him. He laughed. I told him I’m serious. He said I would have big shoes to fill. I told him I have big feet, size 16."
His charmingly amazing story continues with him proposing to his wife after knowing her for two weeks, leaving USC for BYU after the apartment he and his wife lived in was robbed and eventually, walking around the Steelers' facility for two days before the Steelers made their final cuts for the 2013 roster.
He ran into Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert, who told him to go home. Instead, he sat in his car until Rebeka told him he was not on the cut list.“Everything my dad taught me is why I got on the roster,” said Fangupo. “I never saw my dad cry, and my mom told me he fell to his knees because he knew how much it meant. He broke down in tears. It was amazing.”
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