Decoded: Puka Nacua’s Stunning Rise From Being a Relatively Unknown College Prospect to NFL Stardom

Published 12/04/2023, 1:46 PM EST

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Puka Nacua’s rise to NFL stardom is an inspiring tale of grit, determination, and hard work. He was the fifth-round draft in 2023 and since then he has been on a mission to prove to himself that he does indeed belong in the NFL. He currently plays as a wide receiver for the Los Angeles Rams. There is one mantra that he repeats to himself before every game. “I am speed.” And it seems to have worked. The 22-year-old has become the breakout star of this NFL season.

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But it was not all a bed of roses for Puka who has suffered heartbreaks along the way. From a relatively under-the-radar college career, how did he start rubbing shoulders with the hotshots of football?

Puka Nacua’s college stint laid the foundations for his NFL career

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Nacua played for the BYU Cougars in college and led the team in receiving yards in 2021 and 2022. This happened despite him struggling with a persistent ankle injury during his second season. He recorded a total of 1,430 yards on 91 receptions and 11 touchdowns and was always the hardest-working player on the team, rarely sitting out in practice. Nacua carried this passion for the game to the NFL draft even as the scouts doubted his ability due to his injury history.

Where did this motivation and drive come from? Even though he has a hunger and a chip on his shoulder, he prefers to describe his motivation as simply a burning “love for the game”. When his father passed away in 2012, just two weeks before his 11th birthday, it shattered him. He began using sports as a “coping mechanism” and went on to break several high school records.

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But once in the NFL, his passion for excellence hasn’t dwindled, and he has slowly risen through the ranks to rub shoulders with the elites of the league.

What lies in store for Puka as he breaks records in his rookie season?

He got his opportunity to contribute to his team’s efforts when star wideout Cooper Kupp had to watch from the sidelines due to a hamstring injury. Enter Puka and he is already leading the NFL in the number of receptions at 46 and is second only to Miami Dolphins star receiver Tyreek Hill in receiving yards at 572. He also holds the league record for most receiving yards through his first 5 games by an NFL rookie.

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Ever since he signed up with the Rams, he has fit snuggly into the schema laid out by head coach Sean McVay. Even though scouts flagged him for his lack of agility during his pro day, McVay saw in him the makings of a great WR. And now, with his ability to play fast and understand how to open himself up to receptions, he has proved an invaluable asset to the Rams offense.

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The Rams will take on the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, 10 December at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. Kick-off is at 1:00 p.m. EST. Will Puka manage to break more NFL records and set himself up for the Rookie of the Year Award?

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Written by:

Jakso James

692Articles

One take at a time

I am a hardcore believer in the ?Mamba Mentality?, which certainly applies to the NFL. The sport is not just about physical prowess but also demands a powerful mindset. Growing up, I spent time with athletes on the neighborhood soccer field.
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Edited by:

Garima Yadav

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