A versatile defensive back who has started 43 games at both cornerback and safety, Dayan Ghanwoloku Lake finished his BYU career with 207 tackles, including 10.5 tackles for loss, along with 15 pass breakups, seven interceptions, seven fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles, two sacks and one touchdown. His journey from the war-torn country of Liberia to Utah is one of the most amazing stories that you’ll hear leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft.
Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up? When did you begin playing football and when did you realize that you have a passion for the game of football?
I was born in West Africa in a country called Liberia. I moved to the United States in 2002 because Liberia was going through a civil war (there’s a bigger story to this). I grew up in Layton, Utah where I attended Northridge High School. Before I started playing football, soccer was my passion. I had to stop playing on my club soccer team when I was in sixth grade because it was a conflict in schedules. I loved winning and the physicality of football pushed me to give up soccer and invest all my time in football. In middle school is when I flipped a switch and figured out the game and really built that deep love and passion for the sport.
When a NFL scout pops in your game film, what type of player should they expect to see?
They should expect to see a versatile, physical, smart football player who is willing to do anything to win.
What was your offseason like heading into 2019? What areas of your game did you work on to improve upon?
I focused on film study and being able to recognize routes and formations fast. I played multiple positions on our defense, so I took pride in knowing what everyone on defense did and where everyone was supposed to be.
What type of leadership intangibles do you bring to the table? Explain your leadership style.
My leadership style is to lead by example. I’m a strong believer in “practice like you play.” The only reason I get on my teammates is because I know I’ve seen them play at their best at full speed and if they don’t have the same energy at practice as a group, we will never be great. I hold myself to that same standard.
Name a point during your college career when you had to overcome adversity. What did you learn from that experience?
A time in my career that I went through adversity was when my uncle got killed in 2017 in Philadelphia. My family and I were really struggling because he was a big key in helping my older sister and I get out of the war-torn country we were in. In the Liberian culture, there isn’t really any documentations, but my uncle was one of the oldest out of all the brothers and he had all the stories and information to our family members that have passed on. During that year, I wasn’t very focused on school or football, but I knew my uncle paved a way and set the standard high for school and life. I stopped letting the death of my uncle bring me down and turned it into motivation. I made a promise to myself and my family to graduate and have a successful college career while dedicating the season to my uncle by putting “Ghanwoloku” — my family name, which is also my middle name — on the back of my jersey.
What was it like growing up in your hometown? Did you live any other places?
Growing up in my hometown, it was always about being able to adapt and don’t let the opinions of others affect the person you are, especially in Utah. I had a lot of friends but I was very independent and led myself. The only places I’ve lived have been Utah and Africa.
Who has been the toughest opponent you have faced thus far in your career, either overall team or an individual? How did you fare?
I’ve played a lot of great teams in a lot of different conferences. As a defensive back, the best wide receiver that I’ve gone against this year was USC wideout Michael Pittman Jr. He made some big plays and I made some big plays but in the end, I got the game-winning interception.
What is something people might not know about you or something that separates you from other players?
I hate to lose more than I love to win. I might come off to people as a nice, humble guy, but when I get on the field, I flip a switch and I will do ANYTHING to win. The game of football has done so much for my family and I and I owe it to my family and myself to always go 100. Coming from a war-torn country where I had absolutely nothing and being in the position I’m in now, is what makes my drive different than most. I take nothing for granted.
If you could bring one teammate with you, who would you bring?
I would bring my boy Khyiris Tonga.
*The ninth annual NFLPA Collegiate Bowl will be held on Saturday, January 18th at the historic Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. Be sure to tune in on NFL Network at 7 p.m. EST/4 p.m. PST!