The iconic golden arrow has been teasing Michigan State’s Fou Fonoti ever since he arrived back in California. He has seen it from a distance and he can nearly taste it.
Much like any Southern California kid that leaves town for college, it’s In-N-Out Burger that Fonoti has been missing in his three seasons in East Lansing, Mich. The Spartans’ redshirt senior offensive lineman out of nearby Lakewood has been craving his childhood favorite ever since him and the Spartans arrived in Los Angeles for the upcoming Rose Bowl.
"I have not showed my team In-N-Out yet but I’m definitely excited for that because I need some In-N-Out," Fonoti said, Saturday at Rose Bowl Media Day at the LA Hotel Downtown. "All I know is that if I get on that highway a Double-Double is definitely waiting for me."
Fonoti is the lone Southern California player on the Spartans’ roster and Wednesday afternoon, his career will come full-circle as he plays his final college game near his hometown at the 100th Rose Bowl game. For the former junior college product, it’s only fitting that his collegiate career ends right where it started.
"I’ve always made a promise to my family: God willing, let me bring a big game to you guys," Fonoti said. "I’m coming home."
Fonoti was a junior college All-American coming out of Cerritos College in 2011. He took what he calls a 3,000-mile leap of faith, signing with Michigan State in favor of programs closer to home like UCLA and Arizona because of the familial atmosphere that head coach Mark Dantonio has created.
For one of five Fonoti siblings, it was far from a seamless transition. But he was determined to push himself on the field and forget the lonely feeling he was grappling with off of it. It worked, as he started at right tackle for the final 11 games of the season.
"Seeing all of my teammates with their families (after games) was definitely tough to understand. You start to think, ‘Man, it’s kind of lonely out here." Fonoti said. "But you start to get used to it. Families of players, they welcome you and they would take me out with them."
The homesickness he was prepared for; the Michigan winter, he was not.
"It was horrible," he says, repeating it a few more times for emphasis. "I had no boots, no coat — I didn’t know what I was getting myself in to… You try walking to class and you go, ‘Three degrees? I don’t know about that.’"
Under sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-70s, the first song played at today's practice is "Surfin' U.S.A." pic.twitter.com/v6KShDjy6P
He’s fought through three winters, a broken foot and of course the lingering homesickness for his family and In-N-Out to become an all-Big 10 lineman and an NFL prospect. He’s now thoroughly enjoying the reception from his family and his girlfriend of five years in the 80-degree weather this week and thankful that some of his family will finally get the chance to see him play for the first time since his Cerritos days.
While the rest of the Big 10 champs are no doubt looking forward to taking the field Wednesday afternoon, for Fonoti, it’s just a little sweeter.