It is no secret that Houston Cougars head coach Dana Holgorsen and his staff are working towards the goal of building the depth on the roster to a point where it has arguably never been in the recent memory. Holgorsen has not been shy about pointing out the misuse of the redshirt program in prior years as well as the depleted roster they currently have partly due to it. Getting each position group to the depth they want it will require them to take some transfers and junior college players in the short term but the long term goal is to bring talented young players in and develop them over time.
Everyone knows that college football staffs will go anywhere to find talented young players. The Cougar program has proven it a couple of times in recent memory, landing German tight end prospect Sebastian Vollmer who later transitioned to offensive tackle. He starting 25 games for the Cougars before being drafted by the New England Patriots in the second round of the NFL Draft in 2009.
Currently, senior punter Dane Roy is their latest international standout. The Australian native arrived at Houston in 2016 and is enjoying a very successful senior campaign at the moment for Holgorsen and staff.
The latest target outside of the United States is London, England’s offensive tackle prospect James Faminu. Faminu is a 6-foot-6, 342 pound prospect, who like Roy has a bit of history in the game of Rugby. Although the game is still very new to him, he has only been focusing on American football for two years now, he has shown enough raw athletic ability to go with his impressive frame that schools including Houston have begun to offer scholarships.
“At the moment I am not playing football, I am waiting until I go to college because I do not want to mess with my eligibility,” Faminu told Cougar Digest this week. “Right now I am just training and working. I did play two years for the London Blitz (an under 19 football team in the British American Football Association). I used to play rugby and I came across someone who played American football near me, which was the London Blitz, so I started there.”
International football players aren’t unheard of in the United States, but those specifically from England as opposed to those from countries in Europe are not as prevalent. For Faminu, once he found the opportunity to play for the Blitz, he came into a relationship that would ultimately lead him to the opportunities in the United States that are in front of him now.
“A couple of my younger teammates with the Blitz were working with Brandon Collier and PPI,” he said. “They (PPI) saw me through my connection to my teammates. I started speaking to Collier then and I went to a camp a year ago in Amsterdam. After that we just stayed in touch until we went to Texas.”
Last summer a group of prospects from Europe, Faminu included, made the long trip to Texas to attend several college football camps in an effort to gain more training but also to potentially get discovered and land a coveted opportunity to play college football in the States.
“We went to Texas in August and went to TCU, Baylor and Houston to attend camps with them,” Faminu said. “My first camp was TCU and I didn’t perform as well in that camp, maybe I was a bit nervous. I had never been to a camp before. My coach (Collier) was giving me feedback, telling me I was a bit too laid back and that I needed to be a bit more of a force if I wanted to get spotted. So, I used everything I learned at TCU when I went to the Houston camp. Funny enough, we arrived at the Houston camp late, so I only got to do two drills before heading straight to one-on-ones. I was focused as soon as I got there though, I didn’t think about too much. It was great, I genuinely liked the coach at Houston (offensive line coach Brandon Jones). Although I have gotten other looks from other colleges, I really like them there (at Houston). They are really good coaches. I learned quite a bit even though I only got to do the two drills. They gave me a lot of feedback as I was going through and the one-on-ones is where I dominated. I had a good day that day.”
He had such a good day at the camp that what Jones saw from him in person led the Cougar staff to extend Faminu a scholarship offer. His first from a Division I school.
“My first ever offer came from Missouri Southern,” he said. “I can’t lie, I was overwhelmed. Even though it was a Division II college, that was a lot for me. Houston was my first Division I offer and that one felt the same actually, the fact that it was D-1. Everyone tells me that because I am a big guy and a decent player that I can go D-1. I had heard of it and knew about it and knew I had potential but to actually have it realized is something different. It feels like your hard work is being put to good use.”
Making it to the point of receiving scholarship offers is special to football players in the United States, as it should be. For Faminu though, having put in the work and seen the process take much longer for others around him, getting to this point is something he of all prospects can truly appreciate.
“The fact that I have made it this far is crazy, especially in the small amount of time that I have done it,” he said. “It has been just under a year now since I began. A lot of people have been working since they were 15 or 16 and I started when I was 19, now I am finally getting somewhere. I am one of the lucky ones if I am being honest. It was hard work but it could have been a lot worse. A lot of people, obviously Americans, look beyond college football to the NFL. For us, just getting to college is crazy.”
So just where does Faminu stand in the process right now? He is in a similar spot as his future American teammates, finishing the NCAA Clearinghouse process and setting up official visits.
“I am working through the NCAA Clearinghouse at the moment and I’m not having any major problems,” he said. “I can go ahead and do visits now because I am genuinely at the last stage, I just need send a couple of my transcripts over. Probably at the end of this month I’ll be able to visit Houston, we are just working on finding the dates that work for both of us. I will be enrolling in a school in January so I can begin to get the training and start developing more.”
The obvious desire for Faminu is to get the advanced training American college football offers that he can not get at home in London. He sounds truly excited about getting to learn and grow in the sport he has come to love so much in such a short time. Beyond that though, he is like many other young athletes in this country and in his, hoping to make his parents proud.
“Outside of the training and stuff, I just want to make my parents proud really, that’s it,” he said. “Coming from an African family, they don’t really understand sports as much. That is where Brandon Collier has been a big help. I have done a lot of it by myself but he has been able to help me some (understanding the process) where my parents can not. They are quite supportive though and they are proud of me.”
Stay close to Cougar Digest as we follow how the process plays out for Faminu and the rest of the Cougar targets in the 2020 recruiting cycle and beyond.