Australia’s Daniel Faalele is an NFL draft prospect like no other.
Don’t you believe us? Questions ProFootballFocuswho says he’s “never seen anyone like Daniel Faalele.”
The 22-year-old follows in the footsteps of fellow Australian Jordan Mailata, who also traveled to America on a journey into the unknown and learned the rules of the NFL on the fly.
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But Faalele, who was picked as a second- or third-round pick in the upcoming draft, has carved his own path toward the NFL.
From junior basketball and rugby to the bright lights of American football, this is everything you need to know about Faalele’s journey to the upcoming draft.
WHO IS HE?
Born and raised in Melbourne, Faalele grew up watching basketball and rugby. At the age of 12, Faalele was already 1.8 meters tall and weighed 100 kilograms, it is said The Canberra Times. Of course, this has advantages on the field, but it can also attract unwanted attention. Corresponding The times, Faalele left rugby union because he hated injured opponents when he tackled them. He was also taken off the field during a game because opposing parents thought he was too old. So if Faalele spent his teenage years playing basketball and rugby union, how exactly was he scouted?
IF HE HAD NOT PLAYED IN THE NFL… HOW WAS HE WANTED?
It all started at Conquest Fitness in south-east Melbourne, where the gym’s director, David Tuinauvai, introduced Faalele to American football. “When I started teaching them a few things, I knew they had the potential to play (American) football, and now these college coaches see what I see and they all fly over here,” Tuinauvai said foxsports.com.au in 2016. University of Hawaii offensive line coach Chris Naeole then heard about Faalele and from there the Australian visited the University of Michigan subcamp in Melbourne. Within two months he was at IMG Academy in Florida, billed as America’s premier soccer prep program.
WHAT WAS THE FIRST IMPRESSION OF THE IMG ACADEMY?
When Faalele first set foot in the Academy, he was 6ft 9 in a size 18 and weighed 394 pounds (179kg). Grant offers have been received according to Arkansas, Fresno State, Hawaii, LSU, Miami, Michigan and Oregon State ESPN and Faalele had not played a high school football game at this point. “It’s just a freak of nature,” said IMG strength coach David Ballou ESPN. Kevin Wright, IMG’s head football coach, said ESPN that the “only person I ever met in person who was that tall was Shaquille O’Neal”. IMG Academy teammate Curtis Dunlap said Faalele was built “like a brick wall.” What made Faalele such an exciting candidate was not just his size, but how he moved and benefited from it. “As fat as he is and as tall as he is, you wouldn’t expect him to move like that,” Ballou added. “He’s a strong guy but he had a limited strength background before he came here. From our point of view his training age is 1. He is an untapped gem.”
HOW DID HE LEARN TO PLAY A SPORT HE HAD NO IDEA ABOUT?
Mailta compared it to “blindfoldedly” pursuing your NFL dream in a sport that might as well have been a foreign language. Likewise Faalele, who had never watched a football game before joining IMG and didn’t even know what a yard or first down was. “It was like taking a newborn out of the womb,” said IMG offensive line coach Derrick Elder ESPN. Faalele even turned to the Madden video game to learn the rules. “I didn’t know what a first down was or anything,” said Faalele ESPN in 2018. “I didn’t know the positions nor the roles they played. That was surprising. Just being around football helped me understand him better.” However, Faalele was a quick learner and made a quick impression on the field, helping the IMG Academy team to an unbeaten 2017 season. Faalele went on to play college football in Minnesota, playing 34 games from 31 starts, all of which were decent tackles. The Aussie scored a touchdown in the last game of his collegiate career against West Virginia in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. And of course, the sight of a Big Man touchdown set the American sports social media scene on fire.
Faalele didn’t participate in most athletic test exercises at the combine, although he did 24 reps on the bench press. Speaking of the bench press, Faalele’s arms are so long that he once went to the bar just to go over the bench, after which the Vikings strength coach said, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
But the Australian also caused quite a stir when he tipped the scales at 384 pounds. According to ESPN Stats and Info, that made him the heaviest player in the Combine since 2003. In a speech at the Combine, Faalele told reporters he wanted people to know “how athletic I am for my size and how strong I am.” “Because I have a bigger body, I have longer arms, so I just use those intangibles to my advantage,” he added.
Faalele later revealed in March that he had lost more than 18 kg since arriving in Minnesota in 2018 when he weighed 193 kg.
Faalele has been frequently tipped off by draft pundits for either a second or third round pick, and is 49th overall on a variety of major boards. While he could still drop into the third round due to his lack of playing experience, it would still be an incredible feat for the Aussie. For context, Mailata was selected in the seventh round by the Philadelphia Eagles.
Despite his relative inexperience, there are still plenty of reasons to get excited about the raw potential that Faalele offers. “Faalele is a rare guy because of his gargantuan size, raw power, and balanced movements.” The Athletics Dane Brugler wrote. “Faalele has only three seasons of football experience under his belt and it shows on the tape. But he has balanced footwork and movement for a player of his imposing size and strength, and if his technique and awareness continue to improve, he’ll be in the NFL for a long time to come.” NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, meanwhile, wrote that Faalele was gifted with “surprisingly quick feet and athleticism”.