Lions made OT Giovanni Manu of Tonga the 1st NFL draft pick from University of British Columbia

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Detroit Lions offensive tackle Giovanni Manu woke up at 4 a.m. Friday and couldn't fall back asleep.

On the rookie's ride to work, he was overcome by tears of joy.

Manu's excitement and emotions were triggered by a long and lonely path, leaving his parents on the south Pacific island of Tonga at age 11 to live with his aunt and two older siblings in Vancouver in the hopes of a better life.

A growth spurt in high school, along with support on and off the field, led to Manu becoming a 6-foot-7, 354-pound prospect that intrigued the Lions enough to trade up to draft him in the fourth round last month.

“It's been such a long journey,” he said after participating in Detroit's rookie minicamp.

Manu's parents haven't seen him play a snap of football in person, but he hopes they'll come for a preseason game in August.

“It’s going to be really emotional, for sure,” he said.

Manu became the first football player taken in the NFL draft from the University of British Columbia, a school he chose instead of playing across the border for the Washington Huskies because of Thunderbirds coach Blake Nill.

“He sort of played that father figure role, knowing that my parents weren’t around,” Manu said. “It was a no-brainer for me to go play for a guy like that.”

The Lions, clearly, thought it was an intelligent move to give up a third-round pick next year to acquire a late, four-round selection to take the under-the-radar Manu at No. 126 overall.

“In the world of scouting, we talk about turning over every stone,” general manager Brad Holmes said.

It's easy to see why the Lions were intrigued.

Manu is massive, even by NFL standards, and nimble enough to move his feet for a left tackle and to make low-post moves on a basketball court as he did in high school.

Detroit also has the luxury of letting him develop behind All-Pro offensive tackle Penei Sewell, who is from American Samoa, along with standout veteran Taylor Decker at offensive tackle.

While there isn't pressure on Manu to perform right away in games, he is keeping expectations high on the practice field and in the weight room.

“I refuse to get outworked by my peers or my opponents,” he said. “The way I look at it is that, if someone outworks me, it stops me from feeding my family.”


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