San Francisco 49ers has picked Tongan Pita Taumoepenu as one of its best players to compete for the selection of the 2017 National Football League players.
The 2017 NFL draft was the 82nd annual meeting of National Football League to select newly eligible football players.
The selection of Taumoepenu could be seen by Tongans as a milestone because NFL is one of the four major professional sports leagues in North America, and the highest professional level of American football in the world.
The 49ers used their second sixth-round pick, No. 202 overall, on pass rusher Taumoepenu from Utah.
According to Utah media Taumoepenu grew up in Tonga where he played rugby. He was a pass-rush specialist for the Utes over the last three seasons.
Last year he started only four games but finished with 34 tackles — nine behind the line of scrimmage — nine sacks and three forced fumbles.
Two of his sacks came in the Foster Farms Bowl against Indiana at Levi’s Stadium. He was teammates with fourth-round pick Joe Williams, a running back.
Taumoepenu (6-1, 243) said he wasn’t sure whether the 49ers would have him play defensive end, weak-side linebacker or strong-side linebacker.
Their biggest need appears to to be at right defensive end, the so-called “Leo” spot. That position plays on the weak-side of the line and goes to the team’s best pass rusher.
That seems to mesh with Taumoepenu’s role at Utah. “I never stop and I’ve always felt like I’ve always been good at it. I’m looking forward to joining the Niners and help them,” he said.
NFL has announced that the 2017 draft was the most attended in history with more than 250,000 people attending.
His mother comes from Pea, Tongatapu.
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