Kicking Off A Career—With the NFL

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A Far Rockaway football star will continue playing local—and by local, we mean the New York Jets. Hometown favorite, Folorunso Fatukasi of Beach 46th Street was selected by the New York Jets during the 2018 NFL draft last week. The 6 -foot-4, 318 pound defensive linebacker was one of six picks the Jets chose to vie for a spot on Gang Green’s roster come opening day. 

Fatukasi, or “Foley” to his friends and family, is still reeling from the hearing his name called as a 6th round pick by the New York Jets. Although hints of interest from the team swirled, they all waited anxiously until the official announcement on draft day confirming that Fatukasi would soon be going for the green and white.

“It feels great,” Fatukasi told the New York Post. “I give thanks, I don’t want to sound cliché, but I have to thank God for every moment that I have had up until now. It’s surreal. Words can’t explain how I feel right now.”

Fatukasi’s football career started on the peninsula as a Rockaway Raven, then as a Dolphin on Beach Channel High School’s football team. A few stellar years on that team earned him a football scholarship as a UConn Huskie at the University of Connecticut and more than a few glances from NFL scouters.  

Natural athleticism may contribute to Fatukasi’s success, but he’s graciously credited his coaches and family’s guidance, combined with good old-fashioned hard work as a recipe to winning.

According to the UConn blog, and scouting report notes, he’s “raw but talented, noting he has the tools to become an NFL starter but will need development. His production against the run game was average in college, but with his size, he could see the field on early downs as a space eater along the line.”

Talent runs in the family and some think life on the professional offensive and defensive lines may one day become a family affair. Fatukasi’s two younger brothers, Olakunie Fatukasi a linebacker and sophomore at Rutgers University and, Olalemi, a 16-year-old offensive guard and sophomore at Erasmus Hall High School, are both football players eyeing spots in the NFL, hoping to follow in big brother’s footsteps. 

Rockaway Ravens Coach Edwin Williams, presently working with Fatukasi’s brother, Olalemi, says, “These boys have a lot of talent, a real football family.  They work very hard and come from a really nice, quiet, humble family.”

Fatukasi graduated from UConn with a dual major in communications and sociology, but his cheerleaders, Williams among them, anticipate a long, successful career in football for Foley.

At his old high school stomping grounds at Channel View School for Research, the news spread fast and was shared more than a thousand times on social media. Sheila Murray, athletic director at the school, said, “I can tell you that the entire school is so proud of Foley for his hard work and determination and we wish him all the best in the NFL. Many people on the campus wore Jets shirts on Monday in support of Foley. It is just incredibly exciting news for all of us, especially the athletes coming up behind him.”

It’s likely that Fatukasi will also never forget those who were left behind. A March 2013 profile in the New York Daily News highlighted the strong bond between Dolphins teammates Breland Archbold, Christopher Carr, Nkozi Stewart, Fatukasi and the late Justin Zemser. Pals since seventh grade, Zemser’s future was just as bright as Fatukasi’s in high school. After graduating from CVSR, Zemser went off to the U.S. Naval Academy, and Fatukasi went off to the University of Connecticut. With hopes of becoming a Navy Seal and playing ball, Zemser made the sprint football team as a reserve wide receiver and was a favorite among his peers. Navy football teammates recall Zemser’s willingness to play just about any position the team needed, and often admired him for his “seemingly limitless energy.” But in 2015, tragedy hit, sending shockwaves through the naval academy and on the peninsula. Zemser was heading home to Rockaway when the Amtrak train he was on, derailed. He didn’t survive.  Zemser was just 20 years old.  

In the Daily News article, Fatukasi said his friends, Zemser among them, “have been here for me. They want the best for themselves, and they want the best for me.” There’s no doubt that Zemser would’ve been proud of his fellow teammate’s success. And some believe Foley’s success story is just the start of something big for local talent.

Wiliams notes the Fatukasi family is just one prime example of the many talented players on the peninsula and he predicts that more great football players are destined to come out of this community. “Rockaway will turn out more NFL players,” he said assuredly. “This is only the beginning. Just wait and see.”  

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