If you’re looking for a nasty, physical offensive line prospect who loves to punish his opponents, starting your search at Stanford is usually a good idea.
The latest proof? Talented guard Brandon Fanaika.
Fanaika recently spoke exclusively with Draft Wire about balancing the football and academic responsibilities at Stanford, why it’s important to play with a physical mindset, and what kind of skill set he brings to the next level.
ZH: I read that before you attended Stanford, you spent two years on a church mission in Florida. How was that experience?
BF: It was great. Definitely a growing experience. I think that I learned a lot as far as studying and working hard and things like that, so I would say it was a really positive experience, from just personal growth and just growing as a person, as well.
ZH: You attended Stanford, a school known for both their athletics and outstanding academics. How was it like for you, balancing football and academics at a school like that?
BF: It was definitely tough the first year. Going in as a freshman, you kind of don’t know what to expect. But like anything else, it’s a bit of an adjustment and once you are able to adjust, I think things went smooth from there. That first year though is a lot of growing pains, but yeah, that first year was definitely the toughest.
ZH: At Stanford, you helped pave the way for outstanding seasons for players like Bryce Love and K.J. Costello. How was it playing in front of those two talented players?
BF: It was a lot of fun. Those guys are just leaders and for a guy like Bryce Love, it’s not hard to block for him. You know that guy can do a lot just running the ball that makes things easier for us. And K.J. is also a great leader that is really good for the Stanford program. It was a lot of fun, and they were great guys to be around, and obviously great football players, but I think that was definitely something that I’ll never forget.
ZH: I noticed you have a bit of a wrestling background. How does that translate to playing guard in football?
BF: As offensive lineman, you want to be really strong and have a powerful base, and be as balanced as you possibly can, and that’s just kind of wrestling in a nutshell. I think it definitely helped a lot with my footwork, and that was kind of something that my mom brought up to me. She told me that wrestling would be really good for me, and at first I was kind of hesitant, but after kind of getting into it I saw that it was extremely beneficial. Again, it really helped with just being powerful and having a strong base and try to be as balanced as you can.
ZH: So many scouts and analysts talk about being nasty and finishing blocks. Is that something that is important for you?
BF: Yeah, I think that is something that as far as setting the tone is something that I try to do in practice and games because there is a huge component of the mental game with football. If you can establish that mentally, it helps a lot. At the same time, I think that there isn’t much better of a feeling than just burying a guy and just establishing that type of tempo for the rest of the game.
ZH: Who was the toughest defensive lineman you had to block in college?
BF: Besides guys on my team like Harrison Phillips and Solomon Thomas, I think one name that always sticks out is Vita Vea from Washington. That guy, he is definitely something else. He is like everything you want to look for in a defensive tackle because he is just so fast and so strong. Even though that was one of my better games, I think he was the best defensive lineman I’ve played against.
ZH: Which NFL players do you model your game after/compare yourself to?
BF: I like watching a lot of David DeCastro. He’s a Stanford guy and a lot of his film was available to us. I also like Brandon Scherff. Those are guys who just have that mentality of setting that tempo early and physically. I was fortunate enough to play with Joshua Garnett, who was an athlete and just a beast, and I loved picking apart his film, as well, because he’s just extremely physical.
ZH: What is my team getting if I draft Brandon Fanaika?
BF: Someone who just gives great effort every single play. That is something that I kind of pride myself in is just being as physical and as dominant as I possibly can, and try to make it contagious, and I think that is something teams can look for when they are looking at me. Just a tempo-setter, extremely physical, and plays hard between whistles.