SALT LAKE CITY — The big man in the middle, No. 99 for the University of Utah, is now a member of the NFL after hearing his name called Saturday.
Leki Fotu, the 6-foot-5, 330-pound defensive lineman, was selected No. 114 overall in the fourth round to the Arizona Cardinals as part of the 2020 NFL draft that was held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. The former Herriman High product is one of two defensive players selected by the Cardinals and the only defensive lineman.
The Cardinals previously selected linebacker Isaiah Simmons in the first round and offensive tackle Josh Jones in the third round.
Fotu joins the ranks of defensive players drafted from the University of Utah in the Kyle Whittingham era, and is the fourth defensive player drafted from the school this year, and the fifth Utes player overall. He joins former teammates Jaylon Johnson, Julian Blackmon, Zack Moss and Terrell Burgess now in the league, with potentially more to come.
The West Valley City native was a menace on the field and consistently disrupted opposing offenses during his four-year career at Utah. He was a key cog to Utah’s No. 3 rush defense in the 2019 season where he finished with 28 tackles, including eight tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and two pass breakups his senior year.
Fotu was one of nine athletes from the University of Utah invited to participate in the NFL Combine where he ran a 5.15 time in the 40-yard dash and repped 225 pounds on the bench press 21 times — relatively average numbers despite his imposing frame. Still, he adds value to the Cardinals, who will likely transition Fotu into more of a traditional nose tackle.
Whittingham previously said he believed Fotu was one of the best defenders in the Pac-12, despite not being "a flashy guy."
“He's not a supreme pass rusher or not a lot of flash," Whittingham said. "He draws a lot of double teams, and so he is doing exactly what we need him to do in the defense and playing very well.”
Fotu was named a 2019 All-American and was a two-time first-team All-Pac-12 defender at the tackle position. He was also named a second-team All-American from Walter Camp, FWAA and Phil Steele.
Fotu is projected to sign an estimated $3.4 million total value contract, according to spotrac.com. Those numbers, however, are just estimates.