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USU football: Former Aggie finally gets shot at NFL

Published May 29, 2014 9:58 pm

Oakland Raiders • Former Utah State linebacker Filimoeatu signs with team out of rookie minicamp.
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While other defenders might keep track of stats like quarterback sacks and forced turnovers, Bojay Filimoeatu's statistical goal is a little more nebulous. He just wants to keep beating the odds, so to speak.

So far the former Utah State linebacker is doing a good job.

Filimoeatu was one of just two players selected from Oakland's rookie minicamp tryout session. He, along with cornerback Jansen Watson from Iowa State, signed with the Raiders a week ago.

The deal marked an achievement for Filimoeatu, who starred at Granger High School then played at Mt. San Antonio junior college before joining the Aggies in 2011.

Not only has he achieved the difficult feat of earning a chance to play at football's highest level, but he has done so in surprising fashion, overcoming a knee injury that kept him away from the sport for a year.

"I am grateful the good Lord gave me a chance," he said. "I kept my mind on straight and never lost my goal. I'm really happy."

Utah State coach Matt Wells isn't surprised Filimoeatu is getting a second chance.

"Bojay is a driven young man with goals and dreams, and he is not going to allow an injury to be a determining factor in giving up on those dreams," Wells said.

Filimoeatu excelled for the Aggies during his two-year career, playing in 26 games and finishing with 112 tackles (48 solo, 64 assist) and eight sacks.

He finished his senior year ranked ninth in the WAC with .69 tackles for loss per game and led the team with 11 quarterback hurries despite playing with a torn MCL.

Filimoeatu seemed destined for great things, but unfortunately his knee suffered further damage at the Casino Del Sol College All-Star game in January 2013 when he tore his patellar tendon.

Plenty of pro dreams have ended with such injuries, and it would have been easy for Filimoeatu to become another unfortunate statistic.

Instead, he became more determined than ever and worked hard to rehab his knee.

"It was a humbling experience," he admitted. "There are a lot of times when you are going through something like that when you doubt yourself, but I must have done something right to get a second chance."

He emerged as one of the stars at Utah State's pro day, running a 4.6 in the 40 and totaling 33 bench press reps, catching the Raiders' attention as a result.

Filimoeatu knew the Raiders would put him through a rigorous test, but he did well enough to land a spot on the roster.

"It has been a pretty dramatic comeback," Filimoeatu said. "With the rehab, then getting back in shape, it wasn't easy, but I had my focus."

An outside linebacker for the Aggies, Filimoeatu will likely play middle linebacker for the Raiders. It's a slight adjustment, but one he is confident he can make.

"I like it," he said. "It's a new concept to me and I am taking it all in, but in a way, it's still the same too."

While Filimoeatu would have been happy signing with any NFL team, he feels a bit of a connection with the Raiders.

His father named him in part for Bo Jackson, the 1985 Heisman winner who played for the Raiders before a hip injury ended his football career.

That he overcame his own injury to play for the Raiders is significant to Filimoeatu.

"I feel like I have pretty good roots here," he said.

The odds are getting better, too.

lwodraska@sltrib.com —

A closer look

Bojay Filimoeatu

6-foot-1, 258 pounds. Position • linebacker

From • West Valley City

Of note • Started all 13 games as a senior in 2012, finished ranked sixth on the team with 71 tackles and was third with five sacks. … Graduated from Utah State in fall 2012 with an interdisciplinary studies degree emphasizing in sociology and physical education. … Was named in part after Bo Jackson, the former Oakland star whose career was cut short by a hip injury.






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