Path to the draft is our five-part series detailing BYU’s latest group of NFL prospects hoping to hear their name called at this weekend’s upcoming draft. Here we look at Neil Pau’u, the senior wide receiver who became a consistent staple in BYU’s passing attack as a favorite target of quarterback Jaren Hall.
Family ties helped bring receiver Neil Pau’u to BYU, where his older brother Butch had played 40 games as a linebacker from 2015-18.
“I chose BYU simply just because my brother was here,” Pau’u said. “We got to play a season or two together in high school, so I wanted to continue it here in college.”
Initially committing to BYU as a high school sophomore in 2012 before officially signing toward the end of his mission in 2016, Pau’u logged 1,484 yards and 13 touchdowns over four seasons as a Cougar. In 2021, Pau’u led the team with 46 receptions and tied with Puka Nacua for a team-high six touchdowns, racking up 526 yards in the process before a lower leg injury against Idaho State ended his season prematurely.
In BYU’s season opener against Arizona, Pau’u led the Cougars to a win with eight catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns, a career night for the veteran pass-catcher.
“The first game we went off, but it was just the environment,” Pau’u said. “Practicing all fall camp for one game.. to have that many people there, that’s probably my favorite moment.”
Despite maintaining an additional seasonal season of eligibility, Pau’u elected to declare for the NFL draft in December.
“I think it was just time for me just to move on from BYU,” Pau’u said. “I’d been there four years. It’s just time to just see what else is out there for me.”
PRO DAY TRAINING
Pau’u trained for BYU’s pro day at Grossetti Performance in Pittsburgh with Terry Grosetti. Pau’u’s training group included other players from Texas Tech, Hawaii, Villanova and Ball State.
“It’s been cool just to be out here to meet new people as well, and [make] new friends I’ll have for the rest of my life,” Pau’u said of his training group experience.
When it came to choosing a site to train, Pau’u was originally drawn to Florida or California. However, his agent unexpectedly recommended Grossetti’s operation out in Pennsylvania.
“Being here in Pittsburgh is way different,” Pau’u said. “I’m a West Coast kid, I’m a city kid, but I’ve loved every single bit of it.”
Pau’u wanted to find a place to train where he could be focused. Being on his own to concentrate on football without distractions is the reason why Pau’u decided to train in Pittsburgh.
“I’ve been able to focus on not only my physical self, and prepping for the draft and pro day, but I think most importantly, my mental (health) and being able to find peace,” Pau’u said.
Pau’u trained Monday through Sunday, using Thursday as a rest day. His schedule included lifting, agility work, field work, drill testing, position work, pool workouts and yoga, even participating in a mock pro day at one point.
“Zach [Wilson] explained to us that there’s so much time in the NFL [to focus and train], and when you get to that part, you’ll understand it,” Pau’u said. “Now that I’m here, there’s a lot of time to reflect and a lot of time to to grow as a person.”
BYU PRO DAY
Heading into BYU’s pro day, Pau’u had certain goals for numbers he wished to achieve during the various drills.
“I have them written down, some of them are gonna be a little bit out of reach I think, but I think we’re gonna try to get them,” Neil said of his Pro Day goals.
Pau’u participated in the bench press (14 reps), vertical jump (31 inches), broad jump (9 feet 10 inches), 40-yard dash (4.72 seconds), 20-yard shuttle (4.10 seconds) and three-cone drill (6.95 seconds). Pau’u had the fastest three-cone drill time of the day, which would have ranked second among wide receivers at the NFL Combine. Following testing, former BYU quarterback Baylor Romney threw various patterns all across the field to help showcase route running abilities for Pau’u.
Following his pro day showing, Pau’u expressed gratitude for the opportunity to perform alongside his former teammates.
“Two of them [Tyler Allgeier and Uriah Leiataua] are roommates with me. James is really cool and Samson is Samson—you know always brings the energy,” Pau’u said. “It was cool just to be able to work out with these guys. We talked about it leading up, it’s just a dream come true.”
The 2022 NFL Draft will begin on April 28th in Las Vegas.