Utah's Orchard transforms into top DE


Some prospects believed they'd one day be playing in the NFL at an early age. Defensive end Nate Orchard admits he's not one of them.

"I didn't imagine myself in this position," Orchard said at the NFL Scouting Combine. "I was a kid who was lost. No way in heck did I think I'd be here today."

Orchard has undergone a remarkable transformation, beginning with the first thing that makes him who he is – his name and his family.

Before he was adopted by the Orchards, his name was Napa'a Lilo Fakahafua. At the time, he was a troubled kid in need of a stable home environment.

He changed his name to Nathaniel Fakahafua Orchard after his new home changed his life.

"(The Orchards) mean everything to me," Orchard said. "They're folks who didn't give up on me when things got hard, when I was a stubborn kid and ran away so many times just because I had chores and I had a curfew."

Orchard, who starred as a wide receiver and defensive end at Highland High School in Salt Lake City, stayed close to home in college, playing at the University of Utah. When he arrived on campus, he weighed 190 pounds and was coming off a senior season in which he totaled 1,351 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns.

His tenure as a collegiate wide receiver didn't last very long.

"Going into Utah at 190 (pounds), that was what I was expected to play at," Orchard said. "But coach (Kyle Whittingham) said, 'Hey, put on 60 pounds and you can go to the NFL, I promise you that.' He was right."

Orchard, who stood 6-foot-3-inches tall and weighed 250 pounds as a senior, transformed into one of college football's premier pass rushers.

"Sacks were something that could get the stadium going, get my teammates going. That's something I had to really perfect," Orchard said.

He notched a school-record 18.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss in 2014, earning him first-team All-America recognition.

Now, he's considered by many to be a second-round NFL draft pick. Orchard played defensive end in the Ute's 4-3 defense, but his size and athleticism allow him to fit into multiple schemes.

"I've had my hand on the ground for the last 10 years, so I think that's probably where I'm most comfortable," Orchard said. "But a transition to outside linebacker (in a 3-4 scheme) wouldn't be a problem just because I've been dropping into coverage a lot. It's something I'm used to."

Orchard hopes to add 10 more pounds before he begins his NFL career.

"Guys I'll be going against will be bigger and stronger, so the training has to be a little different," Orchard said. "But you can always work on your technique and perfect that."

Getting to the quarterback is a different challenge at the pro level, but Orchard knows it'll be his job to get there.

"Sacks win games at the end of the day," Orchard said. "That's what teams are going to bring me in for, and that's what I'm going to do."

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