In the weeks leading up the seventh annual NFLPA Collegiate Bowl on Jan. 20 at the Rose Bowl Stadium, we will profile 10 draft-eligible players who have committed to play in the prestigious all-star game. Today’s feature is on Virginia Tech linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka.
When Andrew Motuapuaka first started to see consistent playing time on the field, it was impossible to miss him. Now, as he prepares to head to the NFL, while many aspects of his game have become more polished from his time as a freshman, there is no doubting his innate ability to wreak havoc on an offensive gameplan.
Motuapuaka was incredible even as an underclassman linebacker for Virginia Tech. There was undoubtedly something special about the Virginia native, as he notched 11 tackles against Miami as a freshman and then registered four straight games of double-digit stops, including four tackles for loss on one occasion and two sacks against Wake Forest. He also managed to find his way into the end zone with a fumble recovery that was returned 11 yards for a score.
While fans of the Hokies undoubtedly knew his name by the time his sophomore campaign rolled around, the national media was put on notice after his dominant display against Georgia Tech. In that game, he had two massive hits (both tackles for a loss), including one that resulted in a forced fumble. With his hair flying out behind him, it was impossible to ignore the fact that he seemed to be involved in every single play. His second year also included his first-ever interception, which he promptly returned 18 yards for a score against Furman.
As impressive as he was, however, Motuapuaka seemed to harness a greater sense and appreciation for what he could accomplish as he became more ingrained with the program. The results paid off immediately. He was much more active in his junior season, setting a career-high in tackles with 114 and immensely improving his coverage abilities. With offenses now having to respect both his presence in the run game and as someone who could disrupt the offensive line, Motuapuaka took advantage of those preconceptions by working on his ability to drop back and cover. The result was three interceptions and seven passes defensed.
Motuapuaka’s coup de grace came in his last year for Virginia Tech. As one of the team’s leaders, he set the tone every game, only now, he had a football IQ and awareness to couple with his intensity and range. This led to his 92 total tackles, including 11.5 for loss and 3.5 sacks. Gone might’ve been the long, flowing locks, but his persistent play was the only indication offensive players needed to know they were in for a long day. He also continued his evolution as a coverage linebacker with eight passes defensed and one interception.
Motuapuaka leaves Blacksburg with accolades, growth, and even four total touchdowns as a defender. Now all he has left to do is gobble up offenses in the NFL.