LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Tayo Fabuluje's football biography is brief.
The Chicago Bears’ sixth-round pick's unusual route to the NFL began five years ago, with a redshirt year at BYU before he transferred to TCU. Per NCAA rules, Fabuluje sat out one season but started 12 games in 2012 for the Horned Frogs.
This is where Fabuluje’s story takes an unexpected turn.
Because of unforeseen circumstances, Fabuluje was forced to return to Utah in 2013.
The 6-foot-7 offensive lineman took a one-year football hiatus to support his older sister, Tosin, when their mother, Debra, went to prison for multiple petty theft crimes.
Fabuluje explained that his mother began stealing to provide for the family after authorities caught his father participating in a truck theft ring. The father was deported to Nigeria and is no longer in the family picture.
“The hardest thing I’ve been through is to have to see my mom give up her freedom to try to make ends meet for me and my sister," Fabuluje said. "And having to deal with that and overcome that obstacle and continue to persevere and stay on a positive track in life, because there have been millions of negative avenues I could have [taken] and for whatever reason I knew my mom wouldn’t have wanted me to do this."
“My dad was deported [when Fabuluje was 5], and my mom struggled to make ends meet, and she got into a lot of petty theft. Over time, petty theft -- every time it progresses, and you get in more and more trouble -- the consequences get bigger, so that’s why she had to go away. That’s what she felt she had to do in order to make ends meet for our family. She never worked. Our dad provided everything. When he was taken out of our lives, she was a deer in the headlights. She didn’t know what to do, and she got around some bad people who steered her down the wrong path. Everything she’s ever done was only to help our family, to help us succeed. That’s how she’s having to do time.”
Fabuluje worked three jobs while taking classes at BYU. He had no contact with the Cougars’ football program in 2013, which made him eligible to play the following season.
“I was working at Michael Kors,” Fabuluje said. "I was working at Sprint selling phones, and I was working at Champs Sports. I worked those three jobs because I knew I had to help out to support my sister.”
The Day 3 draft choice eventually returned to TCU for his senior season, in which he apparently did enough to catch the Bears’ attention.
Fabuluje spent draft week surrounded by close friends and hopes to contact his mother and inform her of the good news. Debra Fabuluje might be eligible for parole in September.
“Yeah, I’ll definitely write her and let her know [I got drafted],” Fabuluje said. “I don’t know if she is going to know instantly or anything like that, but I’ll definitely make sure she knows.”