For sixth round pick, perseverence pays off
There might not be a more captivating story that comes out of the 2015 NFL draft than that of the Bears' sixth-round pick, Tayo Fabuluje.
That's pronounced Ty-oh Fab-OO-LOU-zhay, just like it's spelled. The Nigerian native came to the U.S. as a toddler and stands 6-feet-6 3/8. He weighed 353 at the Combine, although he says he's down to 330 and will go lower if that's what coaches want.
Fabuluje started his college career at BYU, where he redshirted in 2010. He transferred to TCU in 2011 to be closer to home (Euluss, Texas) and sat out another season as required by NCAA rules. The next year he started 12 games for the Horned Frogs, 10 at left tackle and two at right tackle.
After that, things got interesting or tragic, depending on your viewpoint. His mother, a single parent struggling to support Tayo and his older sister Tosin, had resorted to petty theft to support the family. When Tayo was 5 years old, his father, a traffic coordinator for a trucking company, was deported for his role in a theft ring that targeted truckers.
"That's what she thought she had to do in order to make ends meet for our family," Fabuluje said. "She never worked, and my dad provided everything. When he was taken out of our lives, she was like a deer in the headlights.
"She didn't know what to do, and she got around some bad people who steered her down the wrong path. (But) everything she's ever done was only to help her family succeed. That's why she's doing time."
After repeated arrests, Debra Fabuluje was incarcerated (She could be paroled in September). So Tayo dropped out of school and worked three sales-associated jobs -- at a Michael Kors Outlet, Sprint cell phones and Champs Sports.
"I knew I had to help out to support my sister, who was in a hard time with my mom having to do some time," Fabuluje said. "She had trouble finding work, so I had to do that to keep my family afloat."
Fabuluje re-enrolled at BYU in 2013 as a student but did not play football and then bounced back to TCU for his final season of eligibility. He started 12 games at left tackle in 2014 and graduated with a degree in psychology.
Fabuluje said the phone call from Bears coach John Fox on Saturday afternoon was a long-awaited reward for persevering through tough times.
"I broke down into tears," he said. "At one point I didn't think it could happen for me. You kind of lose sight of the good things in life when you're down."
When he spoke to the media on a conference call shortly after he was drafted, Fabuluje wasn't sure how long it would take for the news to reach his mother, so he planned to write her a letter.
As for his father?
"He tries and he gets a little message through once in a blue moon that gets to my sister, and she'll relay it to me," he said. "But as far as any definite contact, no."
There's still much work ahead for Fabuluje before he can become a factor in the NFL. For now, he's a huge mound of clay that the Bears' coaching staff must mold into a professional. He has the size, strength and power as a run-blocker to win against most defensive linemen in the NFL, and it's a $15 cab ride to get around him on pass plays.
But after just two college seasons he's raw in his technique, doesn't exhibit much athleticism and would benefit from more work in the weight room. There are also questions about his conditioning, and he must manage his weight, as he was reminded by the Bears' staff.
"They were telling me that one of the first things they're going to do when I get there is throw me on the scale, and we all got a good laugh out of that," Fabuluje said. "I'm not worried about it. I've got my weight in check."
And his life, too -- finally.
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