Melbourne behemoth Daniel Faalele is set to become the latest Aussie giant to graduate to the NFL at tomorrow morning’s draft (AEST).
Faalele, a 198cm offensive tackle from the University of Minnesota, who wears size 18 shoes and XXXXXXXXL shirts, weighed in at 174kgs during the NFL combine and is projected to be a second or third-round pick in the draft.
Just four years after the Philadelphia Eagles took a punt on former league player Jordan Mailata in the seventh round, which turned out to be a masterstroke, the Las Vegas Raiders are tipped to select the Aussie, who has little experience, in the second or third round.
Faalele, 22, is the biggest offensive tackle in the 2022 NFL draft and got to show off his size and length at the NFL Combine, even though he never worked out.
Within Australia’s footy codes Faalele may have been deemed a liability because of his monster build, but on the gridiron, his size is not only viewed as a huge plus, it’s something all teams covet.
Faalele’s size has always been a defining feature in any sport he’s played, with the Aussie standing 180cm tall and 100 kilograms by the time he was 12.
He played basketball and rugby but apparently gave up the 15-man game because he didn’t like causing injury to opposition players when he tackled them.
His introduction to American football was sparked by a chance meeting at a gym in Melbourne, with the the establishment’s director David Tuinauvai, who has links to the University of Hawaii.
From there he went on to attend the University of Michigan satellite camp in Melbourne, and within two months he was at IMG Academy in Florida, which has been described as America’s premier prep football program.
“I didn’t know what a first down was or anything,” Faalele told ESPN in 2018.
“I didn’t know the positions or what roles they played. That was surprising.
“Just being around football helped me understand it more,” he added. “I had no idea how to play and I just started to learn. From there, I started catching onto the rules and what different roles are on the team.”
Faalele was a fast learner though and made an immediate impact on the field, helping the IMG Academy team to an undefeated season in 2017.
From there the man-mountain received scholarship offers from Arkansas, Fresno State, Hawaii, LSU, Miami, Michigan and Oregon State according to ESPN, before landing at the University of Minnesota.
He was a first-team all-Big Ten player, in a team that went 11-2 in 2019 and then 9-4 in 2021. Faalele did not play in 2020 because of coronavirus concerns.
The Australian famously scored a touchdown in the final game of his college career against West Virginia in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl
Faalele is the heaviest player since 2003 to participate in the NFL combine, and would be the fifth heaviest player in NFL history if he maintains his weight.
“He’s just a freak of nature,” IMG strength coach David Ballou told ESPN.
“As thick as he is and as big as he is, you wouldn’t expect him to move like he does.
“He’s a powerful dude, but he’s had limited strength background before coming here. From our perspective, his training age is one. He’s an untapped gem.”
“The only human I’ve ever met in person who was that size was Shaquille O’Neal,” added IMG head football coach, Kevin Wright.
While keeping his weight is essential, Faalele has some room to move. He arrived at the University of Minnesota at 193kg but has lost weight every year since enrolling. His target is 170kg by the start of training camp.
Faalele said his best attributes are his athleticism for his size and “just how strong I am. Being a bigger body, I have longer arms. So, just using those intangibles to my advantage.
“The biggest challenge is always pad level. I can always get lower.”
That’s what coaches told him at the College football’s Senior Bowl.
“The main thing they were talking about is pad level, and just taking better angles to the second level,” he said.
Scouts say Faalele might have enormous upside because he’s still so raw.
“I feel like the sky’s the limit for me,” Faalele suggested. “I just need more coaching and I feel like going to the next level I’m excited to see how far I can go.”
Faalele said he studies Orlando Brown’s moves because of his similar size and he counts Jordan Mailata as an inspiration, the former professional rugby player and Australian native of Samoan heritage who was selected by the Eagles in 2018 despite having no prior football experience.
“Seeing Jordan Mailata and what he’s done in the league is definitely inspiring, kind of a similar story,” Faalele said.
He met Mailata a couple of months ago.
“It was cool. It’s like I’ve known him forever,” Faalele said. “He gave me his number, just a great friend and mentor.”
So, what’s the biggest thing Faalele will bring to the NFL besides his massive size?
“The biggest thing is how powerful I am and how athletic I am for my size,” he said.
“I feel like I definitely have a lot to show and I have room to grow.
“I feel like that’s the exciting thing about me. I have a lot more potential to reach.”
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