University of Toledo defensive end T.J. Fatinikun, No. 23, is charged up during practice last year.
During his high school years in Perrysburg, T.J. Fatinikun displayed a big poster of Kansas City Chiefs' running back Priest Holmes in his room, and Fatinikin spent time playing as the Chiefs in the Madden football video games.
Next weekend, the Perrysburg graduate and former University of Toledo football player will work out with the Chiefs to try to score a job in the National Football League.
He has three days to make an impression and prove to the Chiefs he can play defensive end in the NFL.
"It is definitely a dream come true," Fatinikun said. "I grew up a huge fan of the Chiefs and I have the opportunity to compete and play football with an NFL organization. I might be able to sign a contract."
During his senior season with the UT Rockets, he suffered a torn left Achilles in the fall and was worried about his future.
"I talked to him on the phone the night after his injury and he was really, really down," said Matt Kregel, Perrysburg High School head football coach. "But after the surgery he was back to himself talking about how he would get back for the NFL."
T.J. Fatinikun runs the 40-yard dash during Pro Day for senior football players at the University of Toledo in March.
Coach Kregel recalled that Fatinikun's sophomore year at Perrysburg was a big season with the player credited with 14 sacks, and the coach knew Fatinikin would be a big-time player, possibly in the Big Ten Conference. After the big sophomore year, though, Fatinikun injured his knee playing basketball in the off-season, and Kregel said he did not know if the player would be able to return.
"It is hard to see a good guy like him that works as hard as he does go through those injuries," Coach Kregel said. "Everytime he goes through something like this though he gets focused and better. He is bigger and in better shape."
Fatinikun thought the NCAA might grant him a fifth-year of eligibility due to his injury, but on Jan. 25 they denied it. He said he had to scramble to get ready to try out for NFL scouts and he was only 65 percent after his injury.
In March, he took part in his Pro Day at Toledo where he ran and did drills for NFL scouts.
While he said at Pro Day he was only 90 to 95 percent better, he feels great now.
"I'm living the right way and got the hunger back inside of me," Fatinikun said. "I feel better than I've ever felt. I'm back and I think my best football is ahead of me."
After the NFL draft, the Chiefs called him and are giving him an opportunity to make the team.
"My agent called and told me I should probably take it," Fatinikun said. "We were trying to make something work with the [Cleveland] Browns and other teams, but the Chiefs were the first team to give me a call and that means a lot to me."
He said with his injury the Chiefs want to have him in for workouts first before they sign off on him. Thursday the Chiefs will fly him out to Kansas City, then he will have three days of workouts to get his dream.
"I'm trying to get a job," Fatinikun said. "This is how I will make a living, I will be going 101 percent."
Contact Matt Thompson at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-356-8786 or on Twitter at @mthompson25.
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