FEHOKO DREAMS: THE UNSTOPPABLE LEGACY OF BREIDEN FEHOKO AT LSU & BEYOND (re-print)

Updated: Mar 5

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WE'RE NOT THE BEST AT WHAT WE DO...

WE'RE THE ONLY ONES WHO DO WHAT WE DO

by LONN PHILLIPS

@LonnPhillips


              Sometimes, despite our best efforts and intentions, the best among us still remain forgotten... even on the greatest college football team of all time...case in point: LA Chargers' defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko....but we can always rectify our mistakes and we'll follow suit with the Chargers in saluting one of 2019 LSU's true leaders.

              While most know #91 from his vibrant crescent moon smile, devastating hits in the backfield and his family's proud pre-game performances of The Haka, many more have become acquainted with the Hawaiian through his pure humanity.

               Many can talk about the defensive lineman's prowess at Farrington High gaining him offers from the likes of Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Auburn, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Utah, and 20 other Power 5 schools...however, it's been the four years he spent in high school volunteering for special needs children, the undying belief he had in his family, friends and teammates, or the brotherhood he instilled upon the 2019 Tigers which really defines him.





                 Spending every year in high school spreading the love and helping those challenged most in the Kalihi region on the island of O'ahu, Hawai'i , hanging out with Junior Seau and his family (picking the brain of the 12x Pro Bowler who they called "Uncle Junior"), Breiden also graduated on the honor roll as he became one of the greatest defensive linemen to ever play in Hawai'i. And with his outrageous measure-ables, definitive lineman's technique coupled with his assured confidence and intelligence, he could pick any school he wanted.

                 Though most Polynesian kids found themselves staying on the West Coast, Breiden always wanted to be a trailblazer. He initially chose Texas Tech, joining a team coached by current Arizona Cardinals gaffer Cliff Kingsbury and led by world's greatest quarterback and Super Bowl Champion Mr. Patrick Mahomes.

                 As happy as he and his family were in Lubbock, Breiden knew he could play in the NFL. Due to Texas Tech going through three different defensive coordinators and a trio of defensive line coaches in two seasons, and the Big 12 competition proving to be too soft for this beast of every opponent's burden, he took his talents elsewhere in order to make it at the highest level: 

                  In only two seasons at Texas Tech from the nose tackle position, Breiden dished out a ridiculous 38 tackles, 21 solo, 9.5 TFL (instead of the 7.5 he's officially credited for), an interception (how many NT's have interceptions on their CVs?) as well as punishing QBs for 2 sacks...for a nose tackle, this production was incredible.

                 His family leaned on their LDS faith, praying continuously and looking for any answer...finally, Breiden watched the SEC on CBS, like he had all his young life, realizing he needed to go play against the SEC's top competition week in / week out, simultaneously pushing himself within a squad full of 5 stars and NFL-ready specimen....he'd not only grow as a person, Breiden would be maximizing his talents at the highest level.





                 His father Vili "The Warrior" Fehoko described to us the struggle Breiden had in this decision, his eventual choice and the Fehoko family's move from Hawai'i to the mainland for the first time ever: 

                 "I've always felt that without Texas Tech Breiden wouldn't be at LSU. Our son was at Texas Tech to fulfill his mission on and off the field for two years. Breiden needed to be where he was at that time of his life... not only did he give his all on the field, he was actively involved in the community of Lubbock. Both universities made a big impact on our son. That is why Breiden adorned the Texas Tech and LSU stickers on his helmet for the Hula Bowl. We are grateful these two universities came together to give our son opportunities. As a father and for our family, we have to thank Texas Tech...there's a reason we still live in Lubbock. When we left everything in Hawaii five years ago to be with our son on the mainland, it was to make sure we would continue our support as parents. We missed out a lot with Breiden's three older brothers because plane tickets were out of our budget, so the best thing to do was to move. So....we brought Hawaii with us.”





                 As a true student of the game, Breiden carried the knowledge, experiences and friendships he'd gained at Texas Tech, and in the spirit of his parents' wisdom, Breiden transferred and began scouting for his next & final collegiate home.

It wasn't long before every top school in the SEC and most Power 5 authorities came running for Breiden's signature, everyone from Brent Venables and Clemson, Georgia, Auburn, Florida, South Carolina, Alabama & Saban himself demanding the steely Farrington High nose tackle....but one school stood out above the rest.





                   Thanks to former Defensive line Coach Pete Jenkins, Head Coach (and D-line guru) Ed Orgeron and Defensive Coordinator Dave Aranda's recruiting and intimate expertise of the trenches, he went to LSU to jumpstart his college career, bolster his already vast football IQ and ensure his NFL success.

                   After only a single visit to the campus in Baton Rouge, Fehoko felt he'd found his new home, although it would take a full year sitting out (per transfer rules) for us to finally see #91 on the field for the Tigers.

Much like Joe Burrow, Fehoko was another huge transfer catch for the Tigers; additionally the experience of transferring from two different colleges, both thousands of miles away from home, uniquely qualifies and prepares Breiden perfectly for the uncertainty and unfamiliarity of the NFL.

                  When he arrived at LSU, he became the most high profile Polynesian player in LSU history, as well as a valuable piece along the interior defensive line, destroying SEC offenses in his debut season in the conference: 16 tackles, 8 TFL (official 4.5 isn't correct), 1.5 sacks, 1 deflection (all while battling a biceps injury) from the nose tackle position, these high octane numbers displaying that he truly belonged, but only scratching the surface of his value..

                   Highlighting his importance during the 2018 season, Breiden encouraged his teammates to find their inner greatness, convincing his guys they had the ability to go above and beyond, learning everything he could with his brothers in the defensive line meeting room, and listening to mentors such as linebacker Devin White and #18 D-lineman Christian LaCoutoure, Fehoko simultaneously helped establish the glue which bound each member of the eternal 2019 Tigers together...establishing unbreakable bonds a year prior to a national title.

Just as much as he smiled while robbing quarterbacks of their soul, Breiden also kept his Ohana sunset grin shining on when he met these frazzled, disturbed quarterbacks on the other side with a helping hand up...

                   Even as he later battled against forces beyond his control which kept him from starting for LSU's title-winning squad, he never gave in to negativity, gossip or challenging the harmony of the team...in fact, Fehoko stood as the center of the good vibes surrounding this historic group.          





                    Despite featuring in a mere 17 snaps vs Alabama, a game in which he wreaked havoc on childhood friend Tua with 2 brutal hits (one hobbling Tagovaiola for the rest of the game and severely limiting his accuracy), 3 pressures as he breached the backfield 9 times and conquered 10 one on one battles, Breiden never dampened his boyish grin, he never tossed out his witty charm or islander grace...even as he stood on the sidelines out of a game he was surely impacting... regardless, he gave everything, whether on the field or not.





                    Undeterred by his drop in snaps, Fehoko still became an unsung leader on the 2019 unit, guiding his teammates towards a higher purpose, making big time plays throughout the season (usually via subtle defensive line dirty work which opened lanes for Patrick Queen, Jacob Phillips, Grant Delpit and others to make big plays) Coach Orgeron even counted on Breiden as one of the members of the Players' Council.

                    And while his frustration to play reached a fever pitch during the national title run, Fehoko didn't break....he solidified his resolve. B-Man's selflessness bolstered Orgeron's Tigers far further than they would've gone without him...after all, this happened to be the greatest collegiate squad of all time and Breiden was a key cog and every offensive lineman's nightmare matchup from hell, often drawing countless double teams which allowed his brothers on the outside to make the plays which defined our season.....truly, whether he was on the field or not: we all knew how key his role became to this championship.






                    This swaggering brotherhood became ingrained within the LSU team; this "ride or die" / "fight for your life and the brother next to you" mentality served the Tigers' defense well later in the campaign:

                    After finding themselves racked up against the burning coals of inconsistency and fan/media scrutiny following the Alabama & Ole Miss contests (allowing 35+ points in back-to-back games for the first time in the Coach Orgeron era) as well as suffering a vast array of injuries along the defensive front and secondary (Rashard Lawrence and Grant Delpit among others), Breiden Fehoko's gap-clogging and pass-rushing duties became a destiny of disruption in the trenches, helping the shaky, exhausted and battered Tigers defense rebound into a true bona fide powerhouse by the final four games of the season.....Much of the credit lying squarely at the feet of B-Man's calm intensity and "Bring it on" demeanor.

                    While we can talk all we want about what Breiden accomplished on the field, his most lasting impact may be the cultural impression his entire family stamped upon Baton Rouge:    

                    The Fehoko Family's impression upon the diverse melting pot of cultures at LSU transcends football, race, religion or any of the other measuring sticks we foolishly use to separate us all. Breiden's influence went beyond the traditional parameters, all while acknowledging and celebrating the past, whether through Breiden's father Vili performing The Haka prior to Tigers games or Fehoko's obsessive study of LSU Tigers history.

                    The Haka will always be something which sets Breiden apart from others: the traditional war dance will always be a magnetic subject of curiosity...and the youthful wonder we show as we ask any member of the Fehoko family about The Haka provides a perfect opportunity for Breiden's family to share the power of his ancestry, the plight of Polynesians everywhere and the boundless love and positive, healing energy emanating from their traditions.