HOUSTON (AP) — Xavier Su’a-Filo had a two-year layoff between his first season of football at UCLA and his final two years while serving a Mormon mission.
The guard, taken by the Texans with the first pick in the second round on Friday night, believes that time off helped him improve as a player and a person.
“Obviously I was away from the game for two years, but I think it helped me be physically more mature and mentally more mature and helped me just become a better football player,” he said. “When I came back I was an older guy. I was more suited to be a leader at UCLA. I look at it all positive.”
Despite a need at quarterback, the Texans went with another position again after selecting defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with the No. 1 overall pick on Thursday night.
In 2009, Su’a-Filo became the first true freshman in UCLA history to start 13 games before leaving for his mission in Alabama and Florida. He picked up right where he left off in 2012 when he started 14 games at left guard for an offense that averaged 466.5 yards a game.
He split time between left guard and left tackle last season and won the Morris Trophy as the Pac 12’s top offensive lineman. Su’a-Filo isn’t sure how the Texans will use him, but he’s looking forward to showcasing his versatility in Houston.
“I can play either,” he said. “I just want to get in there and I want to compete and contribute and help the team as best as I can.”
Su’a-Filo has fashioned his game after veteran New England Patriots guard Logan Mankins and raved about his skills.
“I love the way he plays,” Su’a-Filo said. “I think he’s physical. I think he’s nasty. You know, I try to implement as much from his game that I can.”
The 6-foot-4, 307-pound Su’a-Filo, perhaps unsurprisingly, is looking forward to the culinary delights in Houston.
“The whole state of Texas is pretty great, but I’m looking forward to eating at Pappadeaux and Whataburger,” he said of the Houston-based Cajun restaurant and the burger-chain, which started in Corpus Christi, Texas.