You can overcome all the odds against you. You can weather the Super Storm Sandy heartbreak that left you and your family temporarily homeless. You can come from Beach 46th Street and out of Beach Channel High School in Far Rockaway and earn a scholarship to Connecticut … and you can even make it to the NFL.
“It’s been a dream ever since the seventh grade,” Folorunso Fatukasi told The Post. “I remember walking to the bus stop on the way to school, and on my walk to the bus stop, I said a prayer. … That walk to the bus stop was the day that I made it up in my mind that this is where I wanted to be at some point.”
You can even play for your hometown New York Jets.
“That’s almost like, ‘Damn, damn that’s too good to be true,’ ” Fatukasi says. “It’s kinda dope being from New York and being able to play for a New York team.”
There was no anxiety or stress as cutdown day neared for Fatukasi as his third year with the Jets nears. He is proud to be an inspiration for his Nigerian-born parents who sacrificed so much, for his younger brothers Olakunle and Tunde, who play at Rutgers.
“And then just the people around my neighborhood,” Fatukasi said. “Growing up in Far Rockaway, it’s a small area, just being able to come out of that area and to give another sense of pride. There’s motivation for every young kid, who had dreams and aspirations to do whatever they want. And I’m a person that believes that my strength comes from the Heavenly Father, and I feel like I would not even gotten this far without the strength that he’s been able to give to me.
“I just want to be able to show that I belong here.”
He belongs there, he belongs as an emerging 6-foot-4, 318-pound run-stopper (389 snaps last season) in the interior of the Jets defensive line.
“There’s no friends on game day,” Fatukasi says. “There’s no friends at all. I would definitely say that the Foley that’s on the field is the complete opposite from the Foley that’s off the field. Off the field, I’m the guy that’s gonna go home and watch ‘Toy Story.’ On the field, I’m the guy that wants to dominate his opponent.”
He’s the guy who never stops working on his craft.
“It’s crazy because no matter how good a person becomes you can always be much better than where you are,” he says. “Steve McLendon is a 12-year vet. He’s seen a lot of football. And one thing that I’ve noticed and I always study about him is that he’s always able to adapt and evolve, you can’t adapt and evolve without learning. He’s still adding things to his game that are gonna make him just a little bit better than what he was before.”
He’s the guy who always saw the glass as half full even when it was so empty after Sandy’s devastation.
“Sandy could have taken away a lot more than just our house,” Fatukasi said once. “It could have taken one of our family members. It could have burned down our house.”
Fatukasi is confident defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will find a way to overcome the losses of Jamal Adams and C.J. Mosley.
“That’s a tough coach,” he says. “As tough as he is, It’s coming from a passion, and it makes you just want to play harder for him.”
A rejuvenated, redemptive Quinnen Williams would help.
“He’s gonna be something special,” Fatukasi says. “Even though I’m older than him, I still watch and pick stuff up that he’s doing that maybe I could add to my game.”
Fatukasi also raves about left tackle Mekhi Becton. He’s hardly alone.
“Once he gets over that learning curve, which I believe is gonna happen a lot sooner than most,” he says, “that kid is gonna be a freakin’ issue.”
Racism, sadly, has always been an issue.
“I wouldn’t say that I experienced it directly. It wasn’t like at my face,” Fatukasi said. “As kids we would laugh about it in high school.”
We have all learned that it is no laughing matter. Fatukasi is encouraged by the growing dialogue and awakening.
“This is a conversation now that everyone can now see and look up and hear for yourselves,” he says. “I think it’s great that people are listening. I think it’s great that we’re having these uncomfortable conversations with people that necessarily don’t even understand but want to. The more that conversation goes, I feel like understanding starts to happen, the perception starts to change a little bit.”
That would be another dream come true. And not just for Folorunso Fatukasi.