Tommy Togiai's wait is over.
The former Highland star and Ohio State defensive lineman was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the fourth round of the NFL Draft on Saturday.
Togiai was taken with the 132nd overall pick.
He is the first NFL draftee from an area high school since former Snake River linebacker Spencer Toone was selected in the seventh round in 2006. The last alumnus of a Pocatello city school to hear his name called was former Highland and Idaho State running back Merrill Hoge, who was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 10th round of the 1987 draft.
“I think I’m more excited than anything, just to get into the NFL and achieve this long goal I’ve had since I was a little kid,” Togiai said last week. “I don’t think (my life) will change too much. I’m still going to be who I am now."
Those who know Togiai best don’t doubt that. Through his childhood in Southeastern Idaho to his days helping Highland to a state title to collecting 23 tackles, 4 1/2 TFLs and three sacks his senior season in Columbus, Togiai hasn’t changed much. He’s still the humble, soft-spoken “teddy bear” who can talk with anyone. He’s still the weight-room monster who combined a lunch-pail mentality with a 6-foot-2, 300-pound frame. And he’s still the same kid with a support system as vast as the Nile River.
"I texted him a little bit (on Thursday) and I said, 'No matter where you end up, I'm going to be proud of you. I'm going to be your biggest fan,'" Highland defensive coordinator Nick Sorrell said. "I can't wait to see what he does at the next level and as he continues on this journey that he's on."
As an interior defensive lineman, Togiai showcased quickness and athleticism that most coaches only see from running backs. At Highland, he was a run-stopping force that other teams needed to double team, but had instincts and burst that allowed him to get to the quarterback and disrupt concepts as simple a screen pass.
When Ohio State began to move him around his junior season, Togiai’s uncanny athleticism was showcased for the nation and, perhaps more importantly, NFL teams. In his final collegiate game – the Buckeyes’ College Football Playoff Semifinal win over Clemson – Togiai burst up the middle and forced a crucial, late-game fumble from quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who went No. 1 overall in this year’s draft to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Togiai lived up to all his hype and expectations at Highland then at Ohio State. Now he’ll have the opportunity to prove what a big kid from Idaho can do on the biggest stage.