Following a suspension that took him away from football during the 2017 season, Nu’umotu Falo Jr. returned to the Colorado Buffaloes a year ago eager to prove he had matured off the field.
Falo accomplished that goal, but with one season of eligibility remaining, he’s hoping to prove himself on the field this year.
A 6-foot-2, 240-pound senior, Falo is competing for a starting role at outside linebacker this spring with the Buffaloes.
“I feel great. I’m excited to be out there,” Falo said Wednesday after the Buffs’ eighth practice of spring. “It’s a wonderful feeling to be out there. I’m loving every rep I get out there.”
Falo hasn’t had nearly as many game reps as he would have hoped during his career to this point. He played 116 defensive snaps as a true freshman in 2015 and 257 more as a sophomore in 2016. After sitting out the 2017 season, he returned last year, but played just 41 snaps on defense.
“It was challenging, especially being an older guy,” he said. “Football is a team sport, so I don’t ever look at it as an individual thing. My role last year as I saw it was to get those guys to be better, to play at their best ability. Just being a vet and getting them to make plays.
“I didn’t see the field a lot during games, but during practice, that was my way to go out there and have game reps for me; be the best I can be and critique myself and work on all my crafts and get better knowing I have one more year left.”
Falo views his final year as a fresh start, with new head coach Mel Tucker and outside linebackers coach Brian Michalowski coming to CU.
“This whole staff coming in, it is a fresh start, especially to have a new coach for me,” Falo said. “This is my last year and I’m blessed to have coach Mike (Michalowski) as my coach. I’m really honored to have him be my mentor, as well. I’m just ready to take on everything, be a sponge and absorb everything I can learn from him.”
Falo said he connected with Michalowski immediately and added, “The guys in that room are really happy to have him as our coach.”
Playing at times with the first-team defense, Falo has been lining up at the Jack linebacker position, which often requires him to be a three-point stance on the line — as opposed to setting the edge from a standing position.
“To be honest, I love it,” he said. “It’s kind of new look. I like it because it’s a new look and it shows versatility. Within the three years that I’ve been here previously, we’ve never really had our hand down. It’s kind of new, but I think the guys are adapting and we’re learning to like it.”
Tucker said the Buffs are working to get several players ready to contribute at outside linebacker — and other spots — but praised Falo’s work this spring.
“I think he does a good job using his hands,” Tucker said. “He understands how to set the edge and he has some rush ability. Those are the things you want, a guy in the run game that can be strong at the point of attack and then versus the pass can give you some rush. We’ll continue to work on our hand placement, our pad level and our fundamentals on the edge in the run and continue t work on great pass rush and make it hard on quarterbacks. He’s very capable.”
Michalowski recently said Falo is a good “first, second down player and he’s really developing as a pass rusher,” and sophomore Carson Wells said Falo is “embracing the senior role.”
If Falo can put it all together this year, he could be not only a leader, but an impact player on game days.
“Every day I’m getting better,” he said. “Every day I’m learning something new, trying to work and perfect my craft every day, whether it’s a practice day or not. I have to earn this spot every day.”