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Fokou is hit making hits for Terps 'D'

October 23, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - It didn't take Moise Fokou long to realize there was something he really liked about American football.

The Cameroon native came to the United States at age 5 and showed a talent for soccer, a widely played and developed game in his country. To him, it was football - he used his feet and played with a ball.

But he soon found an added benefit to switching to the game of his new country.

"I had some friends in my neighborhood who said I should come out for football," said the University of Maryland linebacker. "I was a physical kid. I found out it was a way to hit somebody and get away with it."

Fokou's view of the game has changed over the years, but the primary instincts he grasped have served him well. He has gone from a non-recruited Division III player, to a Maryland walk-on, to one of the stars of the Terrapins' defense in three years.

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It's all because of a desire to work hard and prove himself.

"If you work longer and harder than anyone else, eventually you will get (what you want)," Fokou said.

For Fokou, it was - and still is - all hard work because he had a burning desire to play at Maryland, even though Terrapins coach Ralph Friedgen didn't know it.

"He was a kid that always wanted to come to Maryland," Friedgen said. "We didn't recruit him. He wasn't even on our radar screen."

Fokou went from a nondescript, two-year letterwinner for Bullis School in Potomac, Md., to a star at Frostburg State for a season, where he made 70 tackles in 10 games. It was all part of his plan.

"I knew I was going to transfer to a Division I school," Fokou said. "I just went over there to get some schooling. Maryland was a good place for me because it was close to home."

Fokou transferred to Maryland in 2005 - taking out a loan to pay tuition - and walked on to the football team. He was forced to redshirt because of the NCAA transfer rule, but played on Maryland's scout team.

A practice film became his audition tape.

"I'm seeing this guy on the scout team run people down all over the place," Friedgen said. "I'm saying, 'Who the heck is this guy?' I found out his background, brought him in and told him that I was impressed with his effort, athleticism and got to know the young man a little better."

It was the break that Fokou needed. He suddenly had become Maryland's version of "Rudy."

"He was on the scout team and he was crushing us," said center Edwin Williams. "We kept saying, 'There goes Moises.' He deserves everything that comes to him. He's worked so hard."

The 6-foot-2, 225-pound linebacker had put his foot in the locker room door.

"That year, our scout team could have played Division I," Fokou said, downplaying his rise. "I had to give extra effort day in and day out. That effort caught their attention and put me in their eyes."

Fokou was awarded a scholarship and played in all 13 games in 2006 before starting all 13 games in 2007, collecting 105 tackles in those two years. He has 38 tackles and four sacks this season.

"He has gotten better every year he's been here," Friedgen said. "He's just playing outstanding football for us. Every time he is on the field, he gives 110 percent."

All because Moise Fokou wanted to get away with hitting someone.

"I'm surprised and happy," he said. "It's been a successful journey. I'm glad things worked out."

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