PROVO, Utah – BYU wide receiver Puka Nacua was selected by the Los Angeles Rams with the 42nd pick of the fifth round at 177th overall in the 2023 NFL Draft on Saturday.

He is the third BYU player selected thus far in the 2023 NFL Draft, joining All-American offensive lineman Blake Freeland, who was selected by the Indianapolis Colts 106th overall in the fourth round, and star quarterback Jaren Hall, who was taken with the 29th pick of the fifth round at 164th overall in the 2023 NFL Draft.

“Puka has tons of ability and is a playmaker,” said BYU head coach Kalani Sitake. “He is the hardest worker, especially in practice. You can tell by his energy that practice is the best part of his day. He loves football. He’s the ultimate competitor and has non-stop energy and he’s a great teammate. I’m excited for what he can accomplish in the NFL.”

Nacua is the 12th BYU wide receiver to be selected in the NFL draft. The last BYU wide receiver drafted was Dax Milne, taken in the seventh round of the 2021 NFL Draft by Washington. Before Milne, the previous Cougar receiver selected was All-American Austin Collie, who was a fourth-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2009.

With his selection, Nacua becomes the fifth Cougar receiver and the 41st BYU offensive player to be selected in one of the opening five rounds of the NFL Draft. Overall, he is the 68th BYU player to be taken in one of the first five rounds and the 13th former Cougar to be a fourth-round pick.

All-American running back Tyler Allgeier, a former teammate of Nacua and Hall, was the previous BYU player taken in the fifth round, going to Atlanta in last year’s draft on his way to a 1,000-yard first season with the Falcons. Some other BYU fifth-round picks have included offensive lineman Scott Young (2005, Eagles), quarterback Brandon Doman (2002, 49ers) and offensive lineman Matt Johnson (2000, Colts).

Nacua becomes the fourth former BYU player to be drafted by the Rams. The last Cougar taken by the Rams was offensive lineman Neal Fort, a sixth-round pick in the 1991 NFL Draft. Others Cougars drafted by the Rams were offensive lineman Warren Wheat (1989, eighth round) and defensive back Gary Shaw (1976, 17th round),

BYU in the NFL Draft

With three selections in 2023, BYU has now had 15 drafts with three or more players drafted, the last being five Cougar draft picks in 2021. BYU has had 36 drafts with multiple selections, including 27 drafts with multiple picks in the first seven rounds. Overall, the Cougars have been represented in 51 of the last 56 drafts and in 68 of the 88 drafts conducted.

This year’s NFL Draft also marks the first time since 2002 that BYU has had three players chosen in the first five rounds. In 2002, tight end Doug Jolley (Raiders, second round), Ryan Denney (Bills, second round) and Brandon Doman (49ers, fifth round) were the first three of five draft picks that season from BYU’s 12-2 team in 2021.

With Nacua’s selection, NFL teams have now drafted a former BYU player 152 times since the team’s first draft choice in 1938 (John Stringham, Back, ninth round). Entering this year’s post-draft free agency signings, 205 additional Cougars have received NFL deals as free agents following the annual draft.

Nacua at BYU

Nacua appeared in 21 games, including 14 starts, leading the Cougars in receiving during his two seasons at BYU.

He totaled 1,430 yards on 91 receptions along with 11 touchdown grabs with the Cougars after transferring from Washington. He totaled seven games with more than 100 yards receiving in his career.

In 2022, the local product out of Orem High School led BYU with 48 receptions for 625 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 13 yards per grab and 69.4 yards per game. He compiled 834 all-purpose yards with 10 touchdowns in nine games. In 2021, he caught 43 passes for 805 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 18.7 yards a catch.

A two-time Phil Steele All-Independent First Team honoree (2021, 2022), Nacua was also the College Football Network All-Independent Wide Receiver of the Year and CFN All-Independent First Team selection last year.

In 2021, Nacua earned Pro Football Network Independent Wide Receiver of the Year, All-Independent First Team Offense and Independent Newcomer of the Year.

BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick on Puka Nacua “Puka is the most explosive playmaker I’ve ever coached. He has an outstanding ability to run with the ball after the catch. He will be a great playmaker in the NFL.”

BYU wide receivers coach Fesi Sitake on Puka Nacua“In Puka, you’re getting someone who is all football. He eats, sleeps and breathes football. He’s very studious with film. He loves his craft as a receiver. You get the passion you want in Puka. He’s a super hard worker, a great leader and very charismatic. We’ve already felt the absence of Puka’s energy and smiles he brought every day, whether he was able to practice or not. He brings great value to his team with his infectious energy.”

Personal Information

Nacua’s parents are Penina and the late Lionel Nacua. He is the younger brother of former BYU football players Isaiah, Kai, and Samson Nacua. Kai, a safety, and Samson, a receiver, also earned opportunities with NFL teams, Kai has played for the Browns, 49ers and Jets since signing as a free agent with Cleveland in 2017 and Samson signed with the Colts last year following his senior season at BYU.

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Kay Adams