This is an archived article that was published on in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

He worked in a warehouse on Redwood Road, selling steel. He spent two months at a home security company and six as a full-time credit consultant. He pitched in at his uncle's machine shop, late at night. He built fences with his brother-in-law.

He became an LDS missionary, a husband and a father.

He became the doting son of a cancer sufferer.

And oh, by the way, Jason Fanaika became one of Utah's premier edge rushers.

His former roommate at Utah State, starting right guard Taani Fisilau, calls him "probably the best defensive end we'll see all year," but since Fanaika graduated from Pleasant Grove in 2010, his life has been far from the coddled existence you might expect for one of the most highly regarded players on one of the nation's most highly regarded defensive lines.

Those close to him say that after working five jobs — at least — and his personal trials, the 23-year-old is more grounded than he's ever been.

Fanaika himself thinks he had "a big head" when he went to Logan in 2010, a two-way star in high school who then appeared in 10 games as a true freshman. When he delayed his mission in 2011 and rejoined the Aggies in Week Two, he was talented enough to play the same week, despite missing all of fall camp. He's never been lazy, said his mom, Navu, but at Utah State, "they gave it to him."

The next year, Fanaika spent nine months on a mission in Indianapolis before learning secondhand that his father, Sefita, was at the hospital.

While Sefita had endured chemotherapy, radiation and surgery to treat colon cancer, Navu had worked to replace his lost income, all the while caring for her younger children and fixing family meals. Her days began at 6 a.m. and ended well past sunset, and she'd sit and cry and wonder to herself why this had happened to them, while they had two sons serving the church.

Their son Brandon, now an offensive lineman at Stanford, had left to spend two years in south Florida weeks before Sefita's cancer was diagnosed. Fanaika has seven brothers and sisters in total, but his older siblings live out of state and have families of their own.

"I felt like I needed to come home," he said.

Navu said Jason never explicitly told her that he came back to help, but anyway, he came back.

And he was a big help.

"It's kind of bittersweet, maybe, that he came home early, but I think the heavenly father knew that he needed to be home to help us," Navu said. "That was the hardest thing to ever happen to us."

So Fanaika worked full-time as a credit consultant while looking after his siblings and seeking an opportunity to play closer to home. BYU wasn't interested, Navu said, but Utah invited him to walk on. After taking classes at Salt Lake Community College in the summer of 2013, he was officially a Ute.

And less than two years after Sefita's cancer was diagnosed, he was cancer-free.

"He's healthy," Fanaika said. "There's little stuff here and there, but for the most part, we're real grateful that he's doing well."

In September 2013, Fanaika married Brittney Frampton, whom he'd dated for three years and known since high school. When they were teens, she said, she'd thought of him as "nice" but "cocky," a "typical football player." Sefita's ordeal humbled him, she said.

"Just knowing that you never know what's going to happen, and something can happen in just a second that will change your whole life."

Soon, Utah fans paying close attention began to hear about Fanaika, not only as the brother of the hot prospect Stanford stole away, but as the unseen force of nature terrorizing Utah's offense as a member of the scout defense — even as he was paying his own way by working nights.

The experience helped him appreciate what once came easily, he said.

"From the [time] that I've spent doing all these different things, working and trying to provide for a family, I think I take all these opportunities that I'm given more serious."

Last year, he was more than a rumor. All told, he had 55 tackles, five sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a critical interception in a narrow victory over USC.

He's one of the team's biggest trash talkers, little resembling his cheery alter ego after he's caked eye black around his eyes and cheeks and sent his 270 pounds hurtling toward quarterbacks and ball carriers. A ferocious competitor, he's so wired after games that he and Brittney rewatch the tape until 3 a.m.

Few players are as powerful. Though mobile enough last year to play as a 4-3 linebacker, the cartoonishly muscular Fanaika can squat (830 pounds) and bench (495 pounds) more than any other Ute.

A productive senior season as a dedicated defensive end would grab the attention of NFL scouts, who already know of his cousin, Kansas City guard Paul Fanaika.

Someday, when football's over, the sociology major hopes to open a gym.

"If he wants it bad, he'll get it," Navu said, "because he'll work hard for it."

Adding to his motivation: In July, he and Brittney had a daughter, named Navu after her grandmother, but going by Loumaile.

"He comes home and doesn't even say 'Hi' to me anymore and just goes straight for the baby," Brittney laughed. "He's an awesome guy and an awesome dad."

And he still works, when he can.

Some of the Aggies he'll see Friday he'll recognize not from his time in Logan, but from the security work they did together over the summer.

Did we say five? Make that six jobs.

Twitter: @matthew_piper —

About Jason Fanaika

Vitals • 6-foot-3, 270 pounds, No. 51

At Pleasant Grove • Went 18-5 in his junior and senior seasons, playing defensive end and tight end.

At Utah State • Played in 21 games, starting five, as a true freshman and sophomore, finishing with 29 tackles, a forced fumble, a half-sack and a pass breakup.

Family • One of eight siblings, brother Brandon is a guard at Stanford, and cousin Paul is a guard for the Kansas City Chiefs. Married to the former Brittney Frampton, with a newborn daughter, Loumaile.