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Folorunso “Foley” Fatukasi’s upbeat nature never changes, not through Hurricane Sandy costing his family their home, not through living in hotel rooms eating fast food with four other family members and not through waiting months to return to school at Beach Channel High School.
The Dolphins’ defensive lineman instead felt fortunate and thankful, not looking for sympathy after 6 feet of water from Sandy left his Far Rockaway home severely damaged. That can be rebuilt.
“Sandy could have taken away a lot more than just our house,” the 6-foot-3, 280-pound Fatukasi said “It could have taken one of our family members. It could have burned down our house.”
What it also couldn’t take away from him was his future and his standing in Beach Channel history. On Wednesday, Fatukasi signed his national letter of intent to play football and defensive tackle at the University of Connecticut. It completes his lifelong dream of playing Division I football and makes him the first Dolphin to play at the highest level straight out of high school.
The day was also one of joy for his family, especially his parents Michael and Ifedola, and the school, which did not reopen until Jan. 2. Fatukasi wants to be remembered as a role model both for his teammates and his two younger brothers, that nothing can stop you from achieving your dreams.
“For them to celebrate [the scholarship] after Sandy, for them to actually celebrate it and for them to actually smile and to say God is good, it’s a good thing,” Fatukasi said of his family, which is living with a friend in Far Rockaway.
It’s also a celebration of the person, not just the player, he is. Beach Channel Coach Victor Nazario said Fatukasi really dedicated himself as a junior to putting in the work it takes to get to a school like UConn. Fatukasi’s attention is never on himself, but always on others as more than 20 of his teammates were affected by Sandy.
“He actually called me to see how I was doing,” Nazario said. “It just shows you the type of person he is.”
Throughout it all football was an escape. He helped get in touch with teammates to help the Dolphins get organized for its playoff game, after the hurricane. Practice was an escape from it all.
“I just wanted to play,” Fatukasi said. “It took me away from it. It was just a getaway. I could get my mind off it for a little bit.”
Football will take him away from it again when he heads to Storrs, Conn., to suit up for the Huskies. UConn is not only getting a special player, but a special person and a fighter.
“He’s maintained a positive and an upbeat attitude and a positive mentality,” Nazario said. “He’s preserved.”
Former Cardozo standout Jermaine Lawrence, the No. 19-ranked recruit in his class by ESPN, committed to Cincinnati over the weekend.
The 6-foot-10 forward, now attending Pope John XXIII (N.J.), picked the Bearcats over St. John’s and UNLV.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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