A signature moment in any UCLA football game this season has been when number 15, Laiatu Latu, steps onto the field. The atmosphere at the Rose Bowl instantly becomes electric, and all eyes are fixated on the 6’4″, 250-pound defensive lineman who has taken the college football world by storm.
Latu’s trajectory this season has been nothing short of meteoric. His stat line reads like a dream for any defensive player, and the season isn’t over yet;11 sacks, ranking him 3rd among the elite pass-rushers in the nation; 13 tackles for loss, showcasing his ability to penetrate the backfield and disrupt plays before they even have a chance to develop; and two forced fumbles, demonstrating his knack for making game-changing plays.
These awe-inspiring stats are a testament to Latu’s relentless work ethic, his impeccable technique, and his innate football instincts. Defensive Coordinator D’Anton Lynn has taken his game even further.
The journey to this point, however, has been filled with twists and turns, highs and lows, triumphs and tribulations. Once a 4-star recruit from Jesuit High School in California, Latu’s college career began at the University of Washington.
His freshman year showed promise, as he displayed flashes of brilliance that hinted at the dominant player he would become. But then came the neck injury, a severe setback that forced him to medically retire from the game he loved.
But as they say, “When one door closes, another opens.” And so it was for Latu, who found a second chance at UCLA. It was there that he would rebuild his football career and establish himself as one of the most formidable defensive forces in all of college football.
This season, Latu has been the linchpin of a UCLA defense that ranks third in the nation in team sacks. His 11 sacks are a testament to his skill as a pass-rusher, placing him fifth in the FBS and solidifying his place as one of the premier defensive players in the country.
His performances have earned him numerous accolades, including Pac-12 Player of the Week, first-team All-Pac-12 by the league coaches, and the prestigious College Football Comeback Player of the Year award.
But perhaps the most notable achievement of Latu’s season was his performance against Colorado. In that game, Latu was a one-man wrecking crew, recording a season-high 3.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks, while also forcing a crucial fumble. His dominance was a significant factor in UCLA’s victory and solidified his place as one of the most fearsome pass-rushers in the nation.
As we approach the end of the college football season and look ahead to the NFL Draft, Latu’s stock is at an all-time high. He is projected to be a late first-round or early second-round pick, with numerous NFL teams expressing interest in the dynamic pass-rusher. The only thing that could tank his draft stock would be his medical tests coming out negative.
His combination of size, speed, and skill make him a highly coveted prospect, and his story of overcoming adversity adds an extra layer of appeal for NFL teams looking for not just a great player, but a great person as well.
Laiatu Latu‘s story is one of triumph over adversity, of resilience in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. His journey from medical retirement to college football stardom is an inspiration to us all, and his performances on the field are a testament to his talent, hard work, and determination. As Latu prepares to take the next step in his football career, one thing is certain: he has etched his name into the books of Bruin football history.