Star left tackle Olu Fashanu announces decision to return to Penn State
Penn State received a big boost to its future offensive line on Monday.
Left Tackle Olu Fashanu announced his plan to return to the Nittany Lions sending shock waves around the nation.
Over the past few months, Fashanu has soared up draft boards and was considered to be a top 10 pick in this year's NFL Draft.
“For the last three years, I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to be around a group of extremely hardworking individuals,” Fashanu said. “Everyone in this program has pushed me to become a better football player and more importantly, a better man. Having the opportunity to play in Beaver Stadium in front of the best fans in the world this past year has been great, and I will never forget the moments that were created with this team this season.
“Although playing in the NFL is a goal of mine, there is still more that I want to achieve personally and collectively as a program. After several conversations with my parents and coaches, I will be returning to Penn State for the 2023 season. I want to thank my family, teammates and coaches who have helped me get to this point in my life. My work here is far from over, and I look forward to getting back to work with my brothers.”
In 2021, he appeared in just nine games, primarily on special teams, but he made his first start at left tackle in the Outback Bowl against Arkansas.
The 19-year-old was a first-year starter this season for the blue and white.
In just eight games before sustaining an injury against Ohio State, the 6-foot-6, 310-pounder established himself as one of the top offensive line prospects in the NFL draft.
However, the decision to return for another season wasn’t one Fashanu took lightly. He had several conversations with his family, James Franklin and offensive line coach Phil Trautwein which started weeks ago.
Franklin mentioned that in the past few weeks, Fashanu’s phone was “ringing off the hook” with agents trying to get in contact with him.
It's understandable why Fashanu was generating so much hype, as in the eight games he played in, he didn’t allow a sack and just seven pressures.
He gave up just two pressures against Auburn’s Derick Hall, Michigan’s Mike Morris and Ohio State’s Zach Harrison and J.T. Tuimoloau.
“He has everything that (NFL scouts) want,” Trautwein said. “He has the intelligence to play any position if you wanted to, and he’s just an overall great kid. ... They’re always trying to find red flags. And there’s not one red flag on Olu.”
While Fashanu’s play on the gridiron checks off several boxes NFL scouts are looking for, he also excels in the classroom.
The star offensive lineman is expected to graduate a semester early next fall and is about as good in the classroom and film sessions as he is on the gridiron, fellow offensive lineman Sal Wormley noted.
“He’s always talking about exams he has coming up, classes he talks about, how much studying he has to do on top of studying film and watching other players,” Wormley said. “His worth ethic as a whole is extremely impressive, and it's something that everybody can look at and learn from.”
Having Fashanu back for another campaign is a huge boost to the offensive line, creating great depth in the trenches.
When Fashanu went down with an injury against the Buckeyes, Penn State turned to true freshman Drew Shelton to anchor the left side of the line.
Shelton started the last four contests of the year, gaining valuable playing time and will compete for a starting spot next season.
Fashanu can also act as a mentor to the rest of the line, as well as J’ven Williams and Alex Birchmeier, two of the top high school offensive linemen in the nation committed to the blue and white.
The 19-year-old was a three-star prospect out of Gonzaga College High School (D.C.) in 2020, and his rise to stardom has been much needed for Penn State.
However, it isn’t surprising for Franklin and the rest of the coaching staff that Fashanu’s name is at the top of many draft boards.
“When we recruited Olu, we had our list of like 25 characteristics. With Olu, he checked off most of the boxes,” Franklin said. “I think that what I have found over my time, whether it's in the NFL or college, the guys that just have a lot of boxes checked. They usually do well.”
Alex Rocco is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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