It's been nearly two months since Nu'umotu Falo returned to the Colorado football team, and it's still a bit odd to not call him N.J.

"They still have a hard time," Falo said of his teammates. "Coach Mac still has a hard time. I still tell him every day. I don't blame people."

Dismissed from the team last summer, Falo returned in January not only with a new moniker, but a new outlook on life and football.

"I'm more than blessed to be back," the junior outside linebacker said Monday after the Buffaloes completed their fifth practice of the spring. "I'm excited to be back, excited to be around the guys again, being coached, being able to put my helmet back on. It's an exciting feeling and I love being out there."

During his first two seasons at CU (2015 and 2016), Falo went by N.J. - short for Nu'umotu Jr. Named after his father, who passed away in 2006, Falo flashed his talent during his first two years, but also had some off-the-field trouble that led to his dismissal.

CU head coach Mike MacIntyre didn't know Falo's father, but he knows the family well, having coached Falo's older brother, Nate, at San Jose State. Because of MacIntyre's relationship with the family, he knew how much Nu'umotu Sr. meant to Falo.

"He called me (last fall) and said he's giving me my scholarship back," Falo said. "He told me he's giving it back because he knows the type of the guy I am and that he wants me to do it for my mom, who raised us. The last thing he said was to honor my dad.


Advertisement

"When he told me that, I made the decision as soon as I got back I was going to change my name. I wanted to really emphasize that my name is Nu'umotu."

In honoring his father, Falo is intent on making the most of his second chance with the Buffs and the early returns are positive.

"He's one of my favorite guys," junior tight end Chris Bounds said. "He's a good guy. He's super humble, super quiet and loves to be nice to everybody on the team. It's good to have him back."

MacIntyre was impressed that Falo, who is 6-foot-2, 240 pounds, returned to the Buffs in great shape and added, "He's had a positive attitude and doing excellent in school."

Given his experiences on and off the field, Falo believes he can be a leader for this team, but he's not forcing himself into that role.

"I just got back, so I don't want to really step into the role, because I want to earn my respect from the guys first," he said.

That hasn't taken long.

"He's stepped into a leader role," sophomore outside linebacker Jacob Callier said. "He's proving himself and from us, his teammates looking on, he's been doing a good job."

CU ranked 102nd nationally with 1.58 sacks per game last year, and Falo could play a big role in changing that, once he gets back in football shape.

"Honestly, it was great to be back, but I lost a lot of instincts being out there and that's just from not playing ball for six months," he said. "Just trying to get back to the speed of the game. Practice No. 5, I feel a lot more comfortable."

Falo hasn't had to shake off too much rust, though. At home last fall, he worked on his pass rushing skills with his brother, Nate.

"Working with him helped me a lot," he said. "I feel I can bring a lot to this team. This offseason, that's all I've been working on is being a pass rush specialist."

If he can do that, it won't be long before everybody gets used to his new name.

Notable

The Buffs practiced mostly outside in the cold and wind Monday. "It was fun," MacIntyre said. He added that the quarterbacks had to adjust to the conditions, but, "all of a sudden they started making the throws and making plays." ... MacIntyre participated in the NCAA Football Rules Committee meeting last week in Indianapolis. One of the proposals is to allow returners to fair catch a kickoff, allowing the returning team to automatically get the ball at the 25-yard line. MacIntyre said he is in favor of that change. ... CU will practice three more times this week, on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.