Provo • Samson Nacua is the permanent aux.
Whether you like it or not — and it certainly takes some getting used to — Nacua will be plugging in his iPhone to a speaker near you and blasting deep tracks from anything from Kid Cudi to Doja Cat.
He doesn’t discriminate when it comes to music. He will be smiling and dancing, chest bumping and Milly rocking the entire time. The people around him? Well, they may or may not partake. But Nacua doesn’t care. It’s who he is. As he sees it, it is his job to bring the energy to the room.
And there is one song that is his favorite these days, “Rose Golden.” It is the deepest of obscure hits from Kid Cudi, a song from back in the days when a young star was finding himself — yet to produce the likes of “Mr. Rager” and “Man on the Moon.”
But Nacua likes it — letting the smoother baritones briefly calm his inextinguishable energy. In a way it speaks to who he is.
A guy who is in the woods right now, unsure of what his football future might hold. He’s sure of who he is for the first time in a while: a fun-loving, free-smiling guy who prides himself on not needing coffee. “I bring my own energy,” he says. But he doesn’t know how this version of himself will translate to the NFL just yet, or if a team will ever take him.
“Day-to-day I think the biggest thing is just being focused on what I want to do with my life,” Nacua said last month. “Whether that is football or not, just finding out more about myself.”
Nacua is on the fringes of the NFL draft, a player who transferred, battled injuries and found his own identity later on in his college career. There are flashes of production and athleticism that make him a compelling candidate for the NFL. But it is tough to pound the table for someone who never had over 400 yards receiving in a single year.
Nacua knows that. But in his mind, he is a late-bloomer. And for everything he has left to be desired on the field, he wants scouts to see this current version of him. This is the real Samson Nacua, he says. A guy finally ready to maximize his potential behind a supernova of energy.
“I really just want scouts to see my smile,” he says. “I bring the energy. ... This year at BYU really helped me with off-the-field [maturity].”
Finding himself has been a long time coming. Some people say you need to leave home to find yourself, but for Nacua it was actually the opposite.
Out of high school, Nacua traveled down the I-15, 40 minutes from his hometown of Provo, to attend Utah for four years.
There, after being a state champion in high school, it was all potential with little production. His sophomore year he played in all 13 games, but no more than nine after that.
Every year, people talked about Nacua realizing his potential. But every year it was the same thing. Injuries hit him, partly from his eating habits. Big Macs from McDonalds were his downfall. The other aspect was off-the-field. The old Nacua “was reckless,” he says.
And that could have been the end of his career. But COVID-19 saved him, and a grandmother’s ailments gave him a bigger purpose.
The NCAA granted Nacua, along with thousands of other athletes, an extra year of eligibility. Around the same time, his grandmother fell ill with an aggressive form of cancer.
So Nacua, along with his younger brother Puka, transferred back home to BYU to be closer to his grandmother.
“It was really awesome [for us] to come back,” Puka Nacua said.
And even though this last year at BYU wasn’t a rousing success on the football field — 329 yards and three touchdowns — it was enough to show something to scouts. But the real growth was off the field.
He made the decision to stop with McDonalds and see the real world through the lens of his grandmother. He channeled his energy into finding joy in something. Music is one way to do it, a healthy avenue that lifts his general outlook on life. It can translate to football.
His Pro Day was a great example of that new look Nacua. The morning of the event, while his teammates were eating breakfast, Nacua hooked up his playlist to the locker room’s loudspeakers and started playing music. It was “too tense” in there, his words.
Then when he got out onto the field, he started to scream — not necessarily in tune — the lyrics to “Mr. Rager.” He was so happy, against the backdrop of 29 serious NFL scouts, it was almost startling.
But he eventually responded with the best Pro Day of the afternoon at BYU. He ran a sub 4.5 40-yard dash time and looked the part in the drills.
“I know my name is probably not at the top of list,” Nacua said. “But as long as I can put my name on their lists, that [is] the biggest thing.”
There is one line from “Mr. Rager” that Nacua kept yelling as he warmed up for the drills.
“Tell us where you’re going. Tell us where you are headed now.”
For a story like his, how fitting.
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