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 Samson Nacua, the freakishly athletic wide receiver who became a solar battery and fan favorite in his lone season as a Cougar.
It made complete sense for Samson Nacua to transfer to BYU for his final season of college eligibility. After all, he’s a Nacua.
After spending four years at Utah, Nacua followed in the footsteps of his older brothers Isaiah and Kai to suit up for the Cougars, transferring in alongside younger brother Puka to be closer to their family’s Provo home.
“It was perfect for me to choose BYU — to get more self discipline, build myself, help build my family and to just come home,” Nacua said of his decision to transfer. “BYU was a perfect spot for me. It felt like home, and it felt like a really good environment to go to.”
Nacua added a veteran presence to BYU’s crowded receiving corps, grabbing 21 receptions for 329 yards and three touchdowns in 2021. Nacua averaged 15.7 yards per catch, rushed for a score against UAB in the Independence Bowl and caught a touchdown against Utah for his first career reception at BYU. Having played in four rivalry games wearing both red and blue, Nacua is the only player to record touchdowns for both Utah and BYU against each other and went undefeated in the “holy war.”
Aside from his on-field success and contributions, Nacua became a vocal leader in the locker room and on the sideline, almost always dancing, smiling or joking with Puka to provide swagger for a team that ate it up.
“This season was unbelievable, it helped me find the love of the game again,” Nacua said. “Being with my little brother, being at home and having my family being right there to support me.. it was just a dream come true, honestly.”
Not only did BYU allow Nacua to be closer to his family, but it also helped him prepare for his dream of playing in the NFL.
“BYU prepared me for this time now (in California training) where I’m at out all alone, away from my family, away from friends and just being here right now,” Nacua said. (BYU gave me) a lot of self discipline, helped me grow more off the field and become more of a man.”
PRO DAY TRAINING
Prior to BYU’s pro day, Nacua trained at California Strength Football in Los Gatos, California. Over the last decade, California Strength Football has trained 28 NFL draft picks. Three tight ends from Nacua’s training group — Greg Dulcich from UCLA, Jelani Woods from Virginia and Charlie Kolar from Iowa State —participated in this year’s NFL combine.
“I’ve seen so much improvement in my body, drills and everything that I’ve been working on here,” Nacua said of his experience in California.
Nacua found his agent and training program through his brother Kai, a former defensive back at BYU and current New York Jets safety. Samson recalled watching Kai’s process of working with an agent, training and performing at pro day before arriving in the NFL, which led Samson to sign with the same agent and trainers. Because of this, the brothers have spent a few weeks training together in California during Kai’s offseason.
“Having Kai out here and him telling me how much improvement he sees has just been beautiful,” Nacua said.
Almost everything for Nacua’s training is within walking distance. Nacua and his fellow trainees lived in a hotel for a few months, with the Club at Los Gatos — a boutique, multi-modality fitness center — just right across the street, where he would eat breakfast, do his recovery and measure his body composition. Just 500 yards up the road is California Strength’s training facility where he had lifting sessions and yoga, and a 10 minute drive would takes Nacua to the practice field for drills and position work.
“It’s a small town here in Los Gatos,” Nacua said. “As I walk out and head to breakfast, I see the same people every day walking their dog, so I say good morning to Chris and Erica.”
Every morning, Nacua would wake up at 7:45 a.m., take a shower, go through mental preparation and then head to the Club for breakfast and recovery.
“Bacon breakfast burrito and a mixed berry smoothie,” Nacua said of his go-to breakfast. “Totally amazing. Same thing every day.”
Next, Nacua would hit the practice field to do drills, testing and position work. Following field work, he returned to the Club to measure his mass gains. He then would walk up the street to the California Strength facility to relax for a few hours before having a lifting session to end the day.
“I’m really focused on what I want to do with my life, whether it be football or not, and just finding out more about myself, where my thoughts are and where I want to take my future,” Nacua said. “It’s been a grind, but it’s been beautiful.”
Since moving to California, Nacua has picked up new hobbies outside of football to occupy his time.
“I just started reading, writing in my journal a little bit, and enjoying this process,” Nacua said. “I bought some coloring books so I’ve been coloring in my room. Coloring has been my favorite thing right now.. I went to the dollar store, got a bunch of coloring books and have been learning how to keep inside the lines.”
On the weekends, Nacua spends his time at a local restaurant listening to live music.
“Whether it be jazz or a guy on his guitar, I just sit there and enjoy their music,” Nacua said. “Then I walk back home to my hotel and get a good night’s rest to prepare for Sunday and church.”
Heading into pro day, Nacua’s main goal was to show his passion for football through his performance.
“My biggest goal is just let the scouts see how much I really love this game, no matter what’s going to happen…just having fun with it and showing everyone my smile,” Nacua said. “I feel like I play my best when I’m having fun and not overthinking. I’m just going with the flow.”
It was clear that Nacua was having fun at pro day, as he stole the show with an impressive performance. He participated in the bench press (16 reps), vertical jump (32 inches), broad jump (10 feet 1 inch), 40-yard dash (4.48 seconds), 20-yard shuttle (4.34 seconds) and three-cone drill (6.75 seconds). Nacua’s three-cone drill time would have ranked him eighth among all NFL combine participants and third among wide receivers, and his 40-yard dash time became the leading story out of pro day.
“Everyone put on a great show,” Nacua said at pro day. “It was just awesome to see everybody kill it.”
While his most likely route to the NFL will be as an undrafted free agent signee, his size, film and pro day numbers might just help Nacua slip into the seventh round of the draft, much like former BYU receiver and current Washington Commander Dax Milne this past year.
The 2022 NFL Draft will begins tonight at 6 p.m. MST in Las Vegas.