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
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