PROLOOK Athlete: Puka Nacua

Sometimes, it is clear who will be a star.

Puka Nacua has always had that star power.

“He’s a special player,” said Jeremy Hill, who coached the standout at Orem High School. “Physically, I’ve never coached a player as talented as he is.”

The 6’2”, 205-pound, physical receiver was a cut above the competition in high school. After flashing his sky-high potential as a freshman and sophomore, he exploded in his junior season. He helped Orem go 12-2 and win the state championship behind his eye-catching 1,692 yards and 25 touchdowns. Puka was just getting started. In a record-breaking senior season, he hauled in 103 catches for 2,336 yards and 26 touchdowns—all of which are Utah records. The unprecedented season earned him Utah Gatorade Player of the Year, Mr. Football, and a spot on’s and USA Today’s All-American first teams.

Nacua quickly became a sought-after recruit. After initially verbally committing to the University of Southern California, he switched his commitment to the University of Washington, where he began his college career.

There were again flashes of brilliance for the receiver. While he only caught seven passes in just three starts as a freshman, he managed to find the endzone twice and averaged 24 yards per reception. He played in just three games in a COVID- and injury-shortened 2020 season, scoring one touchdown. He showed his character during the season, however, winning the Don James Perseverance Award at the team’s postseason awards banquet.

Following the season, Nacua felt a call to come home. After spending time with his family during quarantine, he realized that, while he loved Washington, he was missing something.

“Coming home, momma,” Puka said in an announcement that he was transferring to Brigham Young University. The move had little to do with football and everything to do with family. Spending time away from his loving mother and siblings had been difficult. The family was close, and Puka had an especially tight bond with his mother following the passing of her husband and Puka’s father, Lionel, in 2012.

Not only would he be able to live close to home and spend time with his family, but Puka would get the opportunity to play with his older brother, Samson Nacua. Much like Puka, Samson transferred back home to be with his family—a family neither brother takes for granted.

The move also worked well on the football field; Puka had a breakout year at the college level. He smashed his previous season highs, with nearly 1,000 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns. He was a consistent deep threat for the Cougars, with his size and athleticism allowing him to pull in difficult catches and barrel through defenders.

Puka followed up his sophomore season with a stellar junior season. While injuries kept the star receiver from playing in four games on the season, he posted over 800 yards and a career-high 10 touchdowns—more than he managed in the previous three seasons combined.

Following his junior season, Puka decided it was time to pursue his dreams of playing in the NFL. He declared for the 2023 draft, where he would be taken 177th overall by the Los Angeles Rams.

Following a solid pre-season for the Rams, Puka burst onto the scene, having arguably the best start to an NFL career by a receiver. He posted rookie records for receptions and yards through two games—with 25 receptions and 266 yards—on top of being only the fifth player in NFL history with at least 10 receptions and 100 receiving yards in each of the first games of the season.

While many did not know Puka prior to his breakout as an NFL star, the Orem high product has always shown that star power.

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