Tayo Fabuluje got the call of a lifetime on Saturday when Bears coach John Fox informed the TCU tackle that the Bears had selected him with their sixth-round pick, the 183rd overall. Recounting the moment afterwards, the emotion was right there in his voice and the words came out in a torrent:
“It's a dream come true,” said Fabuluje, a 6-7, 353-pound lineman who’d attended TCU and BYU in addition to sitting out all of 2013 working three jobs to help his family. “I broke down into tears when I heard the news. It's a day at one point I didn't see coming. I didn't think it could happen for me, when bad things are going on in my life.
“Like I've told people before, you kind of lose sight of the good things in life when you're down and you're struggling and you're trying to dig yourself out of a hole. Being in a top-flight position today, being a Chicago Bear is just a dream come true. I don't think anybody could write this up. This is something that is God-given and it's just a blessing and amazing. I don't have words that can explain how I feel today. I'm just truly blessed and thankful for the Chicago Bears organization and all the good people that have been around me and helped me get here to where I am today.”
That Fabuluje, born in Nigeria and brought to the United States as a youngster, was able to have this day perhaps speaks to a “character” level not many can reach.
Fabuluje was 5 when his father was deported back to Nigeria after being implicated in a truck-theft ring. The son rarely has contact with the father now.
The father had been the family provider and Fabuluje’s mother Debra had not worked before the deportation. She struggled to make ends meet but did it by engaging in petty theft, to the point where she was sent away to prison in 2012 and is still incarcerated.
“She never worked and my dad provided everything,” Fabuluje said. “When he was taken out of our lives she was like a deer in the headlights. She didn’t know what to do and she got around some bad people who steered her down the wrong path. Everything she’s ever done was to only help her family succeed. That’s why she’s doing time.”
Fabuluje, who redshirted at BYU in 2010, transferred to TCU in 2011 but had to sit out because of transfer rules. He started 12 games in 2012 but had to quit football in 2013 and worked three jobs to help his sister Tosin.
“I worked those three jobs because I knew I had to help out to support my sister, who was in a hard time with my mom going away to have to do some time and all that type of stuff,” Fabuluje said. “She had trouble finding work, so I had to do that to keep my family afloat.”
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After the year away from football, during which he moved back to Utah to live with friends, Fabuluje returned to TCU for the 2014 season, started 12 games and was an All-Big 12 second team selection.
Good enough for that call Saturday.
“They were telling me that one of the first things they're going to do when I get there is going to throw me on the scale, and we all got a good laugh out of that,” said Fabuluje, who changed his eating habits and has his weight down from 360 into the 330’s. “I'm not worried about it. I've got my weight in check. I'm just ecstatic and ready to get started."