Sport

Aussie NFL monster: Giant teen stands at 2m, weighs 179kg

Meet Daniel Faalele, 17. He weighs 179kg, is 2m tall and is scaring the NFL.
Meet Daniel Faalele, 17. He weighs 179kg, is 2m tall and is scaring the NFL.

SOMEWHERE along the way Melbourne teenager Daniel Faalele developed the nickname "Baby Shaq", despite the fact that right now he is heavier than the sporting figure synonymous with titanic presence.

It was an early nickname that the 17-year-old out-grew almost instantly.

More recently the Florida-based high school student has been described as an "urban legend" and an "18-wheel truck". All this is despite the fact he has never played a game of American football.

It's not hard to see why America and now Australia have become engrossed in Faalele's incredible story.
 

Let's start with what you want to know. Faalele was most recently measured at 2.06m and more than 179kg heading into his senior year of high school.

He is raw physical perfection in the eyes of American football scouts looking for an offensive lineman.

Raw is the key word in that sentence. Despite arriving at IMG Academy in Bradenton, about an hours drive from Tampa, in August last year he has never played in a single down.

IMG are more than fine with this.

The high school recruited him knowing full well he had never played the game or even practised the role of offensive tackle before IMG coach Kevin Wright picked up the phone one day to see if these rumours about an Australian colossus that had been spreading across the American football scouting community could be true.

The origin of those rumours can be traced back to the day Faalele walked into the Conquest Fitness gym in southeast Melbourne and immediately blew away the gym's director Davis Tuinauvai.

"I knew as soon as I started teaching them a few things that they had the potential to go and play (American) football, and now these college coaches see what I see and they're all flying out here," Tuinauvai told Fox Sports about Faalele and Eneasi Kavapalu last year.

Then a University of Hawaii recruiter heard about Faalele and things took off.

 

 


Soon after Faalele attended the University of Michigan satellite camp in Melbourne in June and within two months he was arriving at IMG ready to start his football career.

Technically he's still waiting, but so are the 22 Division 1 American college football programs that have offered Faalele a scholarship for next year.

With Faalele joining the IMG offensive line this year, the high school team will reportedly outweigh the offensive lines of several NFL franchises.

It all centres around Faalele and so does the public's attention when it comes to IMG - one of the top rated high school football programs in the country - despite his non-existent playing record.

Wright's used to it and so are Faalele's teammates.

"He's just one of those freakish guys that God blessed," IMG head coach Wright said.

"He's had to learn everything from what a first down is, to what a yard is, and all those things. Now he can tell you about protection schemes. He understands defenses. It's just learning the process."
 

At training.
At training.

While still trying to learn the game last year, Wright says Faalele actually requested not to play last season before he fully understood the sport.

It created some comical scenes.

"He came and said, 'Coach, can I just practice?' And he was our water boy during the games," Wright told Fox 13 News this week.

"He might have been the biggest water boy ever on record in football at any level. When he came out to get water, I'd see other teams look up at him - 'What is this guy doing?' Now it's an opportunity to play."

It will have been more than 12 months in the making when he will finally get a chance to make his IMG debut. The season begins in August, but Faalele and his family have not been in any great rush.

They are more than happy just seeing him find his own way.
 

Family over everything

A post shared by Daniel Faalele (@daniel.faalele) on

Even more than that, Faalele's mum, Ruth, revealed Daniel is just happy playing a sport where he doesn't feel guilty roughing up opponents.

She told Sports Illustrated earlier this year her son became seriously disenchanted playing rugby union and AFL in Melbourne because of the complaints made against him for his physical presence on the field.

He was sick of belting blokes. Not any more.

"Now, he's able to just release all that," Ruth told si.com.

"He must have been enclosed for so long. Now he's playing a sport where he can just explode. In fact, he's required to. That's why I think he's loving it."

That's all she cares about too.

He may be a force to be reckoned with, but Daniel is still her baby.

Once upon a time he actually was a baby, but it didn't last long.

Ruth said Daniel was already 1.83m tall and tipped the scales at 100kg when he turned 12-years-old.

 

Actions speak louder than words🗣

A post shared by Daniel Faalele (@daniel.faalele) on

Ever since then his freak frame has moulded closer and closer to the perfect footballing physique.

"He's just a freak of nature, obviously," IMG strength coach David Ballou told ESPN earlier this year.

"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 1. He's an untapped gem."

Not any more.

The interest in Faalele means that the race to secure his services at a college football level is an ongoing saga the likes of which you see regularly in the NFL.

Some of the best College football teams in America have put offers to him and he's right now still trying to decide which of the football giants he wants to join.

University of Georgia, Tennessee and Louisiana State University are the three front-runners in the race, Faalele said recently.

But more importantly than following the textbook path of joining a respected college football program and then nominating for the NFL draft in a couple of years, Faalele is having fun.

Remember, at 17-year-old, that's what comes first.

"I love football," he said this week.

"Just dominating the other team. Dominating one on one. Just me against the D-end. Run block, pass block. It's just a feeling that I can't explain. It's just a feeling of feeling great."

News Corp Australia

Topics:  daniel faalele football nfl sport

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