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For Jets' Folorunso Fatukasi, Opportunity Knocks

Third-Year DL Is One of the Team’s Young Veterans


For a young player like Jets DL Folorunso Fatukasi the template is to strive to get better each play and each game. That information is not something that can be readily discovered, there's no blueprint, no website that can impart what only comes from experience and playing time.

And for him and several of his young teammates, so much of that knowledge was passed along by the veteran Steve McLendon, a long-time Jets player who was traded recently to Tampa Bay.

"It's something I definitely learned this year, going game to game, play to play and starting to see certain things happening in the game," Fatukasi said on the Inside the Jets podcast, with Bart Scott and Dan Graca. "Steve taught me a lot. He enabled me to be able to adapt and improve. Being able to see those small things and adjust in the game is part of your growth. It comes with experience and playing time."

Fatukasi, 25, who grew up in Far Rockaway, NY, and played in college at the University of Connecticut, has played in all eight games this season. He is in his third year with the Jets after being selected in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL draft. At 6-4, 318, he has the exuberance of youth mixed with a growing body of work on the field.

Speaking about the wisdom and challenges imparted by McLendon, Fatukasi said: "It forces you to take your training wheels off. He has taught us and laid things down. He's a special person, and left us with some things we use, even though he's not here. I try to break it down: 'How can I make this better? What happened here?' "

Fatukasi has found himself in a unique position: In one sense he's a young veteran on a Jets team still trying to forge an identity; in another sense he's a mentor to two younger brothers, both of whom play football for Rutgers University.

"To call myself a veteran right now ... I really don't see myself as such," he said. "To me a veteran is someone like Steve, that's the first name that comes to my mind. I do see myself as someone who had questions and he was here to help me learn. It's the same thing I'm trying to do when questions are asked of me. I'll try to break it down. It's what we all try to do with teammates. Everybody in that room tries to figure out a way to get better or make something better."

It's a simple twist of fate that he and his two brothers -- Olakunle, a senior linebacker; and Tunde, a freshman offensive lineman -- all from Rockaway, are living and playing football now in New Jersey. Olakunle was named the Big Ten co-Defensive Player of the Week after playing a strong game in the Scarlet Knights' opening day win over Michigan State a few weeks ago.

"It's funny, a lot of things I tell my brothers and try to get to them, they've watched me do it, they already know," Folorunso said. "They're in a great position, having coaches that love and care about them, educate them and help them grow as players. As the oldest, everything I've learned -- and am still learning -- I try to push on them. There's no sense to have a lot of knowledge if you're not going to share it. You can't take it with you. My brothers listen to me, and it's a good thing to have my little brothers who listen."

Having them around, he said, "is a blessing. It's not our doing, but I'm grateful for it. They're happy for me, and I'm proud and happy for my brothers. We take our craft seriously."

Since gaining a more important role on the defensive line, the oldest Fatukasi brother, whose family is of Nigerian descent, has earned the nickname "Foley." Perhaps it's because his given name of Folorunso is difficult to pronounce. (Officially and phonetically his name is rendered foe-luh-RUN-sho faa-too-KAH-see). Ditto for Olakunle, who is called O3, though his older brother said that only family members know the origin of the nickname. (He would say no more about the matter.)

Now, with the Kansas City game behind them, the Jets (0-8) and Fatukasi have their concentration set on Monday night's game against the New England Patriots (2-5) at MetLife Stadium. It's a big national stage against one of the Jets' biggest, most loathed opponents.

"Listen, it's great energy, it's amazing. ... It is Monday night football, but at then end of the day it is another game, another opportunity," Fatukasi said. "My biggest objective is to go in and play as hard as I can with my teammates, rally with my teammates and play a good game.

"This is what we play for -- to get a W."

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