I’m just anxious to get out there and get to work. Realizing my childhood dream, it’s just something crazy that I really didn’t know emotionally how I would feel — shock, excitement, all of the above. —Xavier Su'a-Filo
PLEASANT GROVE — It wasn’t a matter of if Xavier Su’a-Filo’s childhood dream would come true but when.
Shortly after 5 p.m. Friday, he got a phone call informing him the Houston Texans were about to announce they’d selected him with the first pick of the second round (33rd overall) of the 2014 NFL draft.
“I was so happy to go to Houston,” the 23-year-old said, smiling.
The Timpview native who played college football at UCLA said he couldn’t be more excited about being selected by the Texans.
“I’m just anxious to get out there and get to work,” he said. “Realizing my childhood dream, it’s just something crazy that I really didn’t know emotionally how I would feel — shock, excitement, all of the above.”
Instead of accepting an invitation to participate in the NFL’s draft party at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, Su’a-Filo chose to watch the draft with his friends and family in his parents’ Pleasant Grove home.
They enjoyed potluck and the speculation of pundits during the first round of the draft on Thursday night. Su’a-Filo said he’d hoped to be drafted in the first round, but he knew the process was unpredictable at best.
“My agent told me to expect anywhere from 25 to 35,” he said. “I was just trying to be confident in my abilities, confident in our plan. My goal was to be the first guard taken.”
The 6-foot-4, 307-pound offensive lineman was a first-team all-Pac-12 member last season as a junior at UCLA. He was also a member of the all Pac-12 freshman team in his first year at UCLA. He served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Alabama and Florida after his freshman year. He decided to declare for the draft after his junior season, announcing that decision in January.
As a high school player, Su’a-Filo was named 4A Offensive Player of the Year during his senior season at Timpview High, where he was one of the country’s top prep recruits.
Last week in an interview with the L.A. Times, former NFL general manager Bill Polian said Su’a-Filo was the best interior lineman “without a doubt.”
“Guards with unique athleticism and size are at a premium, and Su’a-Filo is one of those,” Polian said.
NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper also rated Su’a-Filo as the top guard prospect in the draft.
The process of declaring for the draft, participating in the combine and pro days, as well as interviewing with teams, can be daunting for NFL hopefuls.
But some advice from his parents helped keep him grounded as he waited for draft weekend.
“The most important thing my parents told me was to work hard and control what you can control,” he said. “You can’t control what team picks you, but you can be gracious when they do.”
“I’ve been pretty chill about it,” he said as his friends and family shared treats, like cupcakes decorated with footballs. “I didn’t get anxious until the last eight picks last night (Thursday).”
He’d talked to some teams drafting in those spots who expressed interest in him, but he said he understood the process would be anything but predictable.
“I’m just so excited,” he said. “I knew if I did everything I could, if I showed teams what I bring to the table, I’d be ok. I was confident.”
The phone call Friday night ended any questions or anxiety and began a new chapter for Su’a-Filo.
“General manager Rick Smith said, ‘Xavier, how are you doing?’” he said, smiling. “And I said, ‘Pretty good.” He said, ‘Well you’re about to be doing a lot better. We’re going to turn your name in. You’re going to be a Houston Texan.’”
He also talked with the team’s coach, owner and Texas media members immediately after the pick was announced.
While the reality of his new career is still sinking in, he said he understands that he’s enjoying something special.
“There’s not a lot of kids who get to do this,” he said. “I’m very fortunate to have this opportunity. But I have worked hard to be here.”