The Dallas Cowboys have found themselves in a pinch as a result of the injury to Sean Lee. I was dead set on finding a diamond in the rough for the Cowboys to bring in for a look.
It seems odd to be contributing an article to Cas’ “The Guys No One Is Talking About” series this time of the year, but I believe Uani Unga deserves a shot.
He went from a walk on to a team captain at BYU. This kid doesn’t just have good leadership skills: he is a baller. In fact, he had multiple games in 2013 with 15 or more tackles and set a record with 19 and 1 TFL against Notre Dame.
Uani Unga is one of those kids who just couldn’t catch a break. If there is a recent hard-luck story that really got my attention, it’s this kid. As per an article by Jared Lloyd of the Daily Herald:
While most NFL prospects will spend the next few months training and trying to catch the eye of a pro football team, former BYU linebacker Uani ‘Unga will have other priorities.
He’s got to get his knee working again.
‘Unga, who signed with NFLDraftMasters run by Provo attorney Rose Blakelock, tore his ACL, MCL, and meniscus in BYU’s bowl loss to Washington. Now he’s hoping that the injury won’t have a significant impact on his dream of playing at the next level.
â€œI tell everyone the world is still spinning,â€ â€˜Unga said. â€œWeâ€™re going to come through trials and obstacles are going to get our way, but I feel like everyone goes through things like this. I wish it wouldnâ€™t happened to me but whatâ€™s done is done and itâ€™s about keeping moving forward.â€
When the injury initially happened, Unga said he heard something pop but didn’t think it was all that bad.
â€œMy initial reaction was that it was pretty serious, but I walked off the field on my own,â€ he said. â€œI thought maybe Iâ€™d sprained something. The doctors told me that if you are walking off on your own like that, it shouldnâ€™t be that serious.â€
When the Cougars got back to Provo, however, he found out otherwise. The news about the extent of his injury ended up being delivered on his birthday, Dec. 28.
â€œIâ€™m not going to lie,â€ â€˜Unga said. â€œI cried. Iâ€™ve done quite well this season and to have it all be gone in the blink of an eye kind of tore me up inside. But I got over it really quick. I talked to players and coaches and Rose (Blakelock) and got a lot of positive feedback from everyone of them, telling me the recovery process is long but once you are there, things are still bright on the other side.â€
The former Cougar linebacker, who led BYU in tackles in 2013 with 143, had surgery the 1st week of January and is currently focused on getting his knee back to being better than it was before.
â€œItâ€™s a six-month recovery process,â€ he said. â€œI looking for a quick recovery and hopefully a stronger knee. I think the most important thing is to get better. Without my knee, there is no way Iâ€™d be able to play.â€
He said he’s been getting a lot of support from family and friends, including former BYU teammate Kyle Van Noy.
â€œKyle has been very supportive of me through the injury,â€ â€˜Unga said. â€œHeâ€™s texted me and hopes for the best. Heâ€™s said that he believes in me. We know heâ€™s meant for the next level and to have him show support and believe in my abilities is amazing.â€
Even though the injury is a setback, he and Blakelock both believe that he’s going to be able to still get a shot at playing in the pros.
â€œHe was one of the top guys in his area before he got hurt,â€ Blakelock said. â€œI think the key to his recovery is not rushing it. Weâ€™re committed to staying here and walking him through it. I think you will see him do wonderful things and we just have to be patient. Then we can get him some trials and things.â€
One of the advantages ‘Unga has is the number of relatives and friends who have already discovered what it takes to make it in the NFL.
â€œI think having family who have been through that and what Iâ€™m trying to go through helps me plan out my path easier,â€ â€˜Unga said. â€œThey are always talking to me about what I need to do and make sure I get done to make it to that next level.â€
The ‘Unga family actually already has one NFL player. Uani’s older brother J.J. is an offensive lineman for the Buffalo Bills.
Height|Weight: 6-1 231
40 time: 4.72
2013 | Senior Year
- Named All-America to SI.com Honorable Mention
- Earned FBS All-Independent First Team selection
- Named to the Butkus Award watch list
- Named FBS Independent Defensive Player of the Week (10/28)
- Recorded 17 tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery against Utah State
- Tallied 17 tackles, one tackle for loss, one fumble recovery and one pass breakup in the win over Boise State
- Notched 15 tackles against Wisconsin
- Set a new career-high and set a new career record at BYU with 19 tackles and added one tackle for loss against Notre Dame
- Named to the College Sports Madness All-Independent Second Team
- Phil Steele All-Independent First Team
- Uani Unga is an athletic freak… Quick feet, excellent change of direction and fluid hips… Former basketball player, smooth athlete… Top notch read and react skills… Good vision… Nose for the ball, ( a ball hawk)… Plays with patience and doesn’t commit to soon or bite on the play action…
- Uani Unga is Rangy and can play sideline to sideline… Excellent closing speed… Not afraid to come down hill, take on ball carriers head on and lay the wood… Excellent wrap up tackler… uses his hands well to shed blocks despite his short arms… Does a nice job in traffic… Watched him literally jump over the top of the offensive line to make a tackle in the backfield…
- Uani Unga Can drop back and play a zone… Showed flashes in man coverage… Smart player and understands his assignments… Has a nice pedal… Decent ball skills… Has good knee bend… Very observant: I saw him on several occasions read a pass to the other side of the field, fly over there and make the stop, preventing a big play… This kid looks like a Troy Polamalu playing LB…
- When I read a few of the scouting reports on Uani Unga that were floating around the internet, I couldn’t help but wonder if they had watched the same kid. If they did, it must have been early in his career or on a bad day. The only weaknesses I saw was that he lacks overall length, (but it doesn’t seem to effect his play)… He doesn’t posess elite speed (he seems to play faster than his 4.72 .40 time suggests)… Could stand to polish his man coverage skills… Needs to get stronger… Could stand to gain about 10 lbs to face off against the big power backs at the next level… Needs to improve his technique when engaged…
The bottom line is this: Uani Unga got a raw deal. By Missing the combine and his pro day, he fell off the radar of many NFL teams. I have seen kids with 2nd to 3rd round grades that had more to improve than this kid. In my opinion, he brings more to the table than Hitchens because this Tampa 2 defense requires those rangy, athletic, safety-like linebackers. I would strongly advise the Cowboys front office to take a look at Uani Unga. If there is any chance at all that he is the same player he was before the injury, he could be the answer the Cowboys need at Mike LB. It never hurts to take a free look.