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Posted 27 Aug 2001   For week ended August 10, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 09Aug01

By Mark Wright

The Fight Against Irrelevance: Ofahengaue Hopes for a Spot on the Team

FLAGSTAFF, ARIZONA -- As they say, all good things must come to an end, but Tevita Ofahengaue is hoping to delay what might be the inevitable. Ofahengaue, recently selected as the last player in the 2001 NFL football draft and, until recently, enjoying his 15 minutes of fame, is no longer basking in the limelight that accompanies being selected as "Mr. Irrelevant." Ofahengaue is now toiling in what is possibly the most obscure place possible for a last round pick, NFL training camp. Seventh-round draft selections must endure the hardships and difficulties associated with NFL training camp but do so for much less money and with a much smaller chance of success than most of the other players.

Selected by the Arizona Cardinals, Ofahengaue is now faced with the daunting task of simply trying to make the opening day roster. No big signing bonus, no fancy SUV or exotic sports car for Ofahengaue and the other players listed on the wrong end of the depth chart. Coming into camp with only a little more prestige than practice squad tackling dummies, Ofahengaue and the other late round picks are hanging on, just hoping to survive the next cut. Instead of the million dollar signing bonuses that accompanies the first round picks, Ofahengaue received a very modest $23,000 bonus, most of which is being used to support his wife and four children who currently live in Tempe, Arizona. Ofahengaue, meanwhile, tries to survive on his $30 per day food allowance. "I think I'm down to about $8," Ofahengaue, a tight end, said the other day, "so no candy bars for me."

As previously reported in Mormon News, Ofahengaue was raised in Hawaii, married at 16 and became a father at 17. He escaped his job as a baggage handler when he decided to attend BYU and made the football team as a walk-on. Now graduated, the seventh-round draft pick is trying to beat the odds and make a good enough impression to stick with the team. When looking at the numbers, Ofahengaue's task seems monumental. In last year's draft, of the 48 players were picked in the seventh round, only 15 were on the active roster on opening day. And that was a good year for seventh-rounders. In previous years, the percentage has been considerably worse, with as few as 1 in 10 seventh-rounders surviving the cut.

One positive development for Ofahengaue is the on-going process of attrition that takes place at any NFL training camp. The Arizona Cardinals have five other players in addition to Ofahengaue that they are evaluating for tight end. Currently, 3 of the 5, including last year's starter, are injured and unable to practice. That means Ofahengaue may get a chance to play and shine just a little bit more. In addition, the Cardinals are also playing him some at fullback which gives him yet another opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

Even with this, however, Ofahengaue knows that he remains the longest of long shots to make the team and be on the roster for opening day. "The chances are . . . I won't make it," Ofahengaue said. "But I've been working hard, learning, and doing the best I can, and if it's not good enough, then life goes on." Even though the deck is apparently stacked against him, Ofahengaue keeps a positive attitude and turns the negatives of his draft position into a positive. "The way I look at it is the early- round guys have all the pressure on them," he said, "and there's no pressure on me. That's why I'm going to make it."


By a Thread: Finding Celebrity After the N.F.L. Draft, but Obscurity in Camp
New York Times 5Aug01 S2
By Mike Freeman


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