If an NFL team happens to be looking for a good fullback in the final rounds of the NFL Draft, there’s a pretty darn good one in Provo, Utah. Former BYU fullback Manase Tonga is looking to follow in the footsteps of former Cougars Fahu Tahi and Fui Fakapuna. And he is confident that whether he is drafted this weekend or not, he has what teams are looking for.
“What sets me apart is my versatility and my consistency,” says Tonga, “I do whatever I’m assigned to do, whether it be blocking, running or catching the ball. I do all three things well.” Tonga also says the fact that he is a family man has also been a real positive for NFL teams. “I won’t be a headache, I have a family that takes up a lot of my time away from football. Teams are interested in that, they don’t want to babysit.”
Another positive for Manase is the fact that Tonga received the second highest score among running backs on the Wonderlic test, an exam designed to identify the aptitude for learning and problem solving. Tonga scored a 29, second only to Stanford running back Toby Gerhart’s score of 30. Pretty good for a guy that had to sit out the 2008 season due to academic ineligibility. “People wonder how it’s possible for a guy who became academically ineligible to do that. I wasn’t ineligible because I was stupid, I was ineligible because I was lazy”, joked Tonga.
BYU has recently developed a reputation of producing quality fullbacks, another positive for Manase. “Fahu (Tahi) and Fui (Vakapuna) have really paved the way and opened the eyes of teams, letting them know that BYU is a fullback school.” Tahi is Tonga’s cousin and plays full back for the Minnesota Vikings, clearing the way for Adrian Petersen. Manase is the beneficiary of his cousin’s advise. “Basically, he tells me that the biggest difference between the NFL and college is that you have to be more technically sound. The players are stronger and faster and some of them have been playing professional football for 10 years, so you have to be sound in your technique. He also says not to get to worked up about everything, just relax and let things come naturally.”
Several teams have been in contact with Manase throughout the draft process. New England has expressed the most interest, but Arizona, Carolina, Jacksonville, Oakland and San Francisco have also called about his services. Getting selected or signing a free agent contract with the Raiders or 49ers would mean coming home for the San Mateo, California native. “It would be a nice homecoming, but it’s more about were I can get into camp and stick.”