Friday, January 31, 2014
Ex-Panther Sione Fua lands in Super Bowl
By David Newton
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Sione Fua felt "lost" when the Carolina Panthers switched him from defensive tackle to offensive guard in early November.
A week later, he was cut.
Now he's in the Super Bowl as a reserve defensive tackle for the Denver Broncos.
Fua's NFL career has been a crazy ride for sure. After being selected by Carolina with the 97th pick of the 2011 draft, he started 11 games before going on injured reserve.
Former Panther Sione Fua has found a home as a reserve defensive tackle in Denver.
He had only one start in 2012, and then the Panthers selected tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short with their first two picks of the 2013 draft. All of a sudden, he became the fifth tackle behind Colin Cole, Dwan Edwards and the two rookies.
Carolina moved Fua to the offensive line in an effort to keep him on the roster, but it just didn't work.
Here's an interview reporters had with the 25-year-old player of Tongan descent during Wednesday's media availability at the Super Bowl:
Weren't there a few days there where you were going to be an offensive lineman in Carolina?
Fua: I was, for a couple of days, just with injuries and everything that happened in Carolina. We had a couple of offensive linemen go down and we had extra defensive tackles -- we had five D-tackles that they kept this year. So they asked me if I could help out the team. I practiced O-line for a couple of days, but then right after that I ended up getting released."
How long had it been since you had played offensive line, if ever?
Fua: High school. It's been a while.
I imagine it wasn't an easy transition, because there's a lot of technique involved and learning the playbook.
Fua: I felt lost. There's a lot of technique, and especially the terminology. With defense, being in it for so long, you understand a lot of the different terminology. Me going over there, I was lost. But luckily the coaches there and the players around me were able to help me out a lot.
I suppose that if you had done that for awhile, your experience as a defensive lineman would've helped you. But you also didn't want to do that for long. You are a defensive lineman.
Fua: I wanted to play defense, but I wanted to be a team player and help the team with whatever they need me to do. So that's why I told them I'd do the O-line thing. But my heart was in playing defense.
And then a couple of weeks elapsed and you got the call from Denver?
Fua: About 10 days or so passed and I got the call from Denver, worked out and they signed me.
Over the past few days, have you had time to reflect on going from a low point -- getting released -- to being a Super Bowl player?
Fua: It's crazy. From where I came from to where I am now, it's just a great experience. I feel lucky to have the chance to go to a team like this where there's great veteran leadership, and here we are playing in the Super Bowl. A lot of guys go throughout their career and never have this experience. They play 12, 13 years, and here I am in my third year, getting released by the Panthers, coming here to Denver and having the chance to be on a Super Bowl-winning team.
Did you follow the Panthers' push to the playoffs?
Fua: Oh, yeah. I followed moreso the defensive line, because those are my friends. We were pretty tight. Greg Hardy was just in the Pro Bowl, and [I followed] some of those rookies. So I was mainly watching them, seeing how they did, and I was happy for their success.
Bringing Star Lotulelei in really anchored that line, right?
Fua: They drafted two rookies and had another veteran they brought in, Colin Cole, and they had another veteran, Dwan Edwards. All four of them were solid this year, so they were able to play fiery and penetrate and get after it up front.
How important is it for them to re-sign Hardy?
Fua: I'll say very important. I think he's the mainstay on that defensive line, but I don't really know the business side and what the Panthers' cap room is. So I don't know how that will work out for them, but I definitely think he's a player they need to sign.
What were the factors that allowed the Panthers to bounce back from that 1-3 start?
Fua: There were just small, little mistakes that we were making early in the season. But we had our core guys and a system in place, so basically we just had to execute. And that's what it came down to later in the season, executing and being able to win those close games. We lost those games the previous two years.