The always jovial Vakapuna. (Photo credit: Bengals.com)
You may know Fui Vakapuna, Bengals fullback, as one of the stars of last year’s Hard Knocks. Vakapuna, who was released by Cincinnati and resigned in November is ready to make a splash (aka play) this season. I got a chance to catch up with Fui and talk about last year’s apprenticeship with the Bengals, his unique relationship with the late Chris Henry and what type of music gets him jammin’.
The Football Girl: In researching this interview I’ve seen in multiple places that’s there’s a song about you from your BYU days, yet I can’t find it anywhere. Do you know I’m talking about and if so, please describe?
Fui Vakapuna: It talks about me running the ball and running over people. Making touchdowns. I don’t know. The team played it for me in the locker room one day and proceeded to make fun of it.
TFG: Let’s talk about your current team, the Bengals, and kind of go through last year. You were drafted last at ripe old age of 25 because you had previously served your church (Latter Day Saints) on a mission. Do you think your advanced age, if you will, was an asset or liability on draft day?
FV: I don’t think it hindered what I did. I think being older I know the game and appreciated the game more During draft day, even before draft when I came to visit the Bengals they showed a lot of love. They came to my Pro day and everything, so I knew they appreciated me.
TFG: Now you were sent to Arizona off the practice squad, but resigned with the Bengals in November. What did it tell about their future plans for you that you were kept on the 53-man roster, even though you were inactive?
FV: It was a good indicator that they really wanted me to know the system. They wanted me to see how they get into it all. I think it was a good stepping stone to get to where I’m at right now. It helped me understand what they wanted from a fullback. Having my goals set for being a fullback – and learning the tight end position as well – helped me manage my time, too. It was all agreat indicator that I could play for this system, this team. Being in this position, it’s good (laughs).
TFG: What was the Hard Knocks experience like, and what advice would you have for the Jets as they embark on the same journey?
FV: Just be yourself. The whole experience was pretty interesting. It’s fun while you’re playing. You really don’t notice the cameras. You notice them after the fact, after practice, when they come to your house. It was funny to see it on television. And was great to share the experience with my wife
TFG: I can’t imagine what it was like to lose Chris Henry. I see he att,ended your wedding so I assume you guys were friends. How did you find out the news, and how did you deal with it in subsequent days?
FV: When I first heard about, it was a hard day. It was right before practice. The coaches just announced it. It was just a hard time. He’s my boy, he took me under his wing right when I got in. His fiancée is my cousin, which is how we got so close. Chris is an amazing guy and an amazing talent. We were really close. He did come to my wedding and the relationship snowballed from there. He always called me “fam.” I loved his kid. I love his family and I hope the best for them
TFG: The Bengals shocked the country and made the playoffs last season. What are you projections for this season?
FV: We’re hoping to make it to February. We have the talent. We have to go get it, go do it. We’ll be back with Smash Mouth football, basically. We’re hoping to execute and do better. The team is still the same, but even better
TFG: Last thing about your team. Have you seen Ochocinco: Ultimate Catch and if so, give your honest assessment.
FV: My wife watched, but I didn’t. I watched DWTS and that was pretty funny. I didn’t know Chad had moves like that. She thought Ultimate Catch was hilarious, she was cracking up the whole time. The whole dancing thing was there too, she said. She just laughed the whole time because we know Chad.
TFG: Let’s learn a little more about you, rapid fire style.
TFG: Your heritage?
FV: Tongan, my family’s from Tonga. In the South Pacific.
TFG: Best dancer on your team?
FV: Chad Ochocinco
TFG: Best running back in the league
FV: Cedric Benson
TFG: Favorite movie of all time?
FV: The Ultimate Gift
TFG: Favorite type of music?
FV: Reggae, especially Bob Marley
TFG: Any pre-game superstitions?
FV: No, not that I know
TFG: Finally, one word to describe Fui Vakapuna
TFG: Thanks so much for the time. Best of luck this season.
FV: Thank you, Melissa.