Romney Fuga dominated on the field for Edison High School on both sides of the trenches. That was a long time ago, when he – along with Matangi Tonga – was selected as one of the top prep linemen in the state of California. Fuga was courted by programs such as Nebraska, Penn State, Utah, Cal and Washington. Of course, he ended up coming to BYU to play for the Cougars.
“When I grew up in Southern California, I never really heard much about BYU,” Fuga said. “I grew up a USC fan and when BYU was recruiting me, like, I never saw any BYU games at all, and the year they were recruiting me they went 6-6. People used to ask me, ‘Why would you want to go to BYU? They’re not that good.’ I just told them, ‘I don’t know, I just want to be there.’”
With a few seasons and a two-year LDS mission under his belt, Fuga feels his final decision to come to BYU was the right one. Since the day he first strapped on his white helmet with the Y logo on the side, a lot of program changes have occurred.
“Now looking back, I’m glad I made that decision to come here,” said Fuga. “BYU is one of the top programs in the country, and we’re now going independent with ESPN. This is great, the exposure that we’re going to have and the new broadcasting facility that we have now.
“I see now that BYU’s recruiting circle is expanding a lot wider than when I was being recruited. Back then, I came to BYU because it was a great place to be even without all these things. Now, if I was being recruited by BYU, I would come here in a heartbeat. When I first got recruited, I never expected any of this to happen here at BYU. Now look at all the changes and how far we’ve come. Now it’s time to go out and make a statement.”
And all eyes will be on Fuga as he heads out onto the football field for the first time since the end of last September when he suffered a season-ending injury.
Last September 27, Nevada offensive guard John Bender hit a defenseless Fuga low, crumbling the 295-pound nose guard and sending him reeling to the ground with a blown knee. Since then, Fuga has made strides in his recovery and is expected to be back in action this fall camp.
“I’m still doing rehabilitation and it’s not up to full strength, but I think it will be. It’s just going to take more time,” said Fuga. “The coaches expect me to be back for fall camp and for practices. They haven’t said anything otherwise, so when fall camp starts I should be good to go.”
While Fuga’s physical rehab is nearly complete, rehabilitating the psychological side of the injury takes a little more time.
“It’s been hard but I think I’m coming along with that side of the healing,” Fuga said. “I’m still kind of hesitant about it at times. Sometimes I’ll be doing something and not realize it and think, ‘Whoa! I just went there and it was pretty fast,’ so it’s kind of like that. Whenever I do something new, I’m kind of hesitant but I just increase the workouts slowly until I feel comfortable with it.”
Much of what Fuga is referring to is the new summer workout and conditioning program that’s been put in place.
“There have been some really good changes over this past summer,” Fuga said. “I remember last summer when we were working out. We had the offensive line and the running backs doing the exact same things. I would be tired and the running backs would be fine. Now we have different workouts for different players. Now, some of the workouts for the o-line are really hard for us and some of our workouts are really hard for the o-line.”
The new workouts are designed for the skill sets of each individual position.
“The changes that happened are different for everyone,” Fuga said. “There are workouts for the defensive backs, receivers and running backs with trainers that put them through certain drills designed for their skill set, and our workouts are more designed for the linemen and then the midrange guys like the linebackers and tight ends. Everything is geared towards their positions and it’s really good.
“We as linemen do more things now that are explosive. We don’t need to do those workouts that help receivers run better routes downfield. Our workouts are designed for more brute strength, quickness and being explosive. The running backs and receivers are being worked out with more agility, speed and explosion.”
As for his injury experience, Fuga has been able to draw upon his time as a missionary in order to deal with that difficult situation.
“One thing that I noticed as I went through this personal injury trial is when I was on my mission I had a lot of personal trials that kind of prepare you for things that don’t seem as important,” said Fuga. “For example, when I was on my mission there were people that I taught and wanted to be baptized so bad, but they didn’t. Sometimes things just don’t go your way sometimes, and when you’re on your mission you learn to handle those things and deal with it.
“You learn that there are certain things you can control, and there are certain things you can’t control. As long as you know you’re doing your best and controlling those things you’re able to, then you learn that you’re okay with not being able to control the things you’re not able to control. When I got my injury, it was a very big trial for me. But I knew things like that happen and you just have to continue moving forward knowing what you can and cannot do. It was just like in the mission field.”
Fall camp is only days away, and although Romney is coming off a season-ending injury, he will be right in the thick of the competition. He's ready for the pressures of independence and looking forward to getting back out on the field.
“The pressure is obviously there,” Fuga mentioned. “I get asked that a lot. But I don’t think there is any more pressure than what we put on ourselves, say, during the season. We expect to win every game. That’s the only pressure that really matters. We have to accomplish our own personal goals.
“I think the coaches get more pressure from the media and the fans, but the one thing that the coaches help us with is how to handle any pressure that’s put on our shoulders. I’m just excited to get back out on the field because so much has happened over this past year with our school and program. It’s time for us to step up and show the nation what BYU football is all about. We’ve come a long way since the days when I was being recruited.”