College Confidential

Lighter, more nimble TCU lineman puts himself in position for NFL

After a rocky start to his college career, which included a transfer to BYU before returning to TCU, offensive tackle Tayo Fabuluje, right, has settled in to a good routine and hopes an NFL career awaits.
After a rocky start to his college career, which included a transfer to BYU before returning to TCU, offensive tackle Tayo Fabuluje, right, has settled in to a good routine and hopes an NFL career awaits. AP

Former TCU left tackle Tayo Fabuluje focused on two main things to get ready for the NFL draft.

One wasn’t tough — stay out of trouble.

The other one? Maybe a little tough.

“I just had to change my diet,” he said. “Once I cut out all the bad stuff, the pounds just melted away. It was so amazing. I feel almost like a kid coming out of high school. I feel that extra burst of energy. It’s like a weight’s been lifted off my shoulders. I feel nimble, but I feel so strong.”

That’s the difference 30 pounds made for the 6-foot-6 Fabuluje, who began last summer at TCU around 375 pounds and got down to playing at about 360. He missed parts of two games early in the season because his back would spasm, perhaps because of the weight. But he became a reliable performer during the Horned Frogs’ 12-1 season, protecting Heisman Trophy candidate Trevone Boykin’s blind side.

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday to talk about his draft preparations, Fabuluje said a nutritionist at TCU and former Horned Frogs guard Marcus Cannon, now with the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, helped him see the benefit of an eating plan.

“The biggest thing was I had to change my diet and be responsible following it and disciplined,” he said. “Have to be disciplined. All players work hard, and all the workouts are hard; as far as doing anything different there, not much changed with that. The biggest thing was changing my diet.”

And in his conversations with Cannon and other players in the league, and in his training sessions in California, Fabuluje was reminded of another factor. Personal behavior matters in the months before the draft as much as getting ready for the draft.

“When teams call, that’s one of the first things they ask — ‘How are you doing? Are you still working out? No injuries? No run-ins with the law or any trouble?’ I’m not getting into any trouble. Staying in shape, keeping my head above water.”

The first round of the draft is Thursday, with Rounds 2 and 3 on Friday, and the final four rounds on Saturday. Fabuluje is projected to be a sixth- or seventh-round pick, but he has the advantage of TCU’s draft reputation under head coach Gary Patterson.

“If you look at his past and some of the guys that have been drafted, and some guys that were drafted late or undrafted, they’ve been making big impacts on a team,” Fabuluje said. “Whether it be top guys like Andy Dalton and Jerry Hughes and Daryl Washington all the way to guys like Colin Jones, Malcolm Williams – they’ve all been making big impacts on their team. I think the league is starting to see sight of that. It really helps us out at this point, when it’s our time, when it’s our chance to be on a team and try to contribute.”

Fabuluje outlined the strengths he hopes the NFL considers when the draft begins.

“A lot of people covet my size,” he said. “I feel like for my size, I can still move pretty well. And after dropping 30 pounds from where I was playing, my movement started getting even better. With me being such a big guy, most people aren’t going to bull-rush me. And being a powerful guy, I can open big lanes for anybody that’s ready to run through them. I feel like I can take a physical and technical skill level to any team. I think I can contribute right away.

Fabuluje, who navigated a difficult background to play one more year of college, is one of several TCU players who could be drafted, including Walter Camp All-America linebacker Paul Dawson, cornerback Kevin White, safety Chris Hackett and defensive tackle Chucky Hunter.

“I think it’s great,” Fabuluje said. “It’s a great group of players who had a big impact on what we did in past years at TCU. All those guys, everybody’s praying. They’re guys with a lot of talent. I’m just excited to see where everything turns up and where everybody ends up.”

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram