Skip to main content

New DT Leki Fotu on Why He Signed with the Jets in Free Agency: Opportunity

Utah Product Grew Up Playing Rugby; Was Coached by Former Jets DT Sione Po’uha


The Jets' new DT Leki Fotu's decision to sign with the Green & White in free agency boiled down to one word.

"Opportunity," Fotu said. "I felt like the Jets were the right fit for me. The scheme plan that the coaches have, I think it's a great gameplan that they have for me coming in. And also to be part of the defense that they have been shown over the recent years with this coaching staff.

"I feel like my game, there's still a lot more improvements, which makes me excited. But to be around these guys, the front for knowing for attack style of play, I'm excited to be part of that. The past four years with the Cardinals, it's been a ride with them in their scheme. I'm excited to join this."

In four seasons with Arizona, Fotu racked up 89 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks (2.5 last season) and 7 QB hits. His stats don't jump off the screen, but his agility jumps off the tape. Not many players who are 6-5, 335 move like Fotu, which he credits to his basketball and rugby background.

"I got into [rugby] through my two older brothers and I kind of just followed their footsteps," he said. "Same as football [they played college football at Illinois and Arizona]. But rugby, for me, in high school kind of took over. Football wasn't really there, but it definitely shaped the person that I am and player that I am right now. And basketball with a lot of running, I think most of that conditioning and that fitness part comes from that too. Being able to play multiple sports, I think it's very beneficial."

Fotu grew up in Oakland before moving to San Leandro, CA, after his younger sister, Ema, and father, Likiliki, died within a two-month span. The Fotu family then moved to Herriman, UT, before Leki's senior year of high school. Basketball was no longer in the equation(he was a power forward) and football had taken a seat on the bench to rugby. Fotu decided to put his helmet back on for his senior year and led the Herriman Mustangs to their first championship. He earned first-team all-state and MVP honors with 82 tackles and 9.5 sacks.

At Utah, he earned first-team All-Pac 12 honors each of his last two seasons before he was drafted in the fourth round by the Cardinals in 2020.

It's a small world for Fotu, whose parents are from the Pacific island nation of Tonga, which is roughly 6,000 miles from the United States. His defensive line coach at Utah his senior year was former Jets DT Sione Po'uha, who played eight seasons with the team from 2005-12.

"I haven't spoken to him during this period of time, but I know that he's a Jet legend out here," Fotu said. "Learned a lot from him and still learning. Still talk to him to this day. Great guy."

Po'uha was a part of the last Jets playoff team that went to the AFC Championship game in the 2010 season, which was led by one of the NFL's best defenses. The Green & White have not made the playoffs since, but Fotu could be a part of the team that ends the drought, which is also led by a top-five defense.

"To be honest, it was more from the culture side that really attracted me," he said. "Obviously seeing the growth on the field over the recent years, but really the culture environment, that's something that's important to me. I think that's important to a team, having that right environment."

See photos of the former Arizona Cardinal and new Jets free agency addition.

Related Content