Skip to main content

UW Football Primer: Henry Bainivalu Gets His Chance, No Turning Back

Huskies big offensive lineman got his chance to be a headliner in the Las Vegas Bowl and he could be on his way.

The Washington football team played the Las Vegas Bowl without offensive linemen Trey Adams and Jaxson Kirkland, with Adams bent on preventing injury and Kirkland dealing with one.

Normally losing multiple players of such exalted status would have been great cause for concern for the Huskies. Put them at a big disadvantage.

Then-sophomore Henry Bainivalu proved willing and healthy in their absence. And dominant. 

The 6-foot-6, 326-pound offensive guard appeared in his third consecutive game as a Kirkland replacement and led the ferocious push of the offensive line. Following a punishing 38-7 rout of Boise State, the UW coaching staff rewarded the powerful Bainivalr with lineman of the game recognition. 

"We've got some really good young players there, we really do," former UW coach Chris Petersen, citing Bainivalu and redshirt freshman Victor Curne in particular.

This is another in a series of profiles on prospective UW football starters. While spring practice is in question because of the novel coronavirus outbreak, Husky Maven/Sports Illustrated will provide uninterrupted coverage.

In Bainivalu, shown as No. 66 in the lower right-hand corner of the photo, the Huskies trot out a suburban Seattle recruit who had his pick of schools. From Skyline High School, he fielded scholarship offers from every entry in the Pac-12 Conference, plus serious overtures from Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma State and others.

Read More

His college football destination was big news at the time, made even more poignant by Bainivalu citing the cultural implications of it. He and his family immigrated to the United States from Fiji when he was 6 years old. 

"I'm proud that I'm representing my parents and my family and Fiji in this lifetime opportunity," Bainivalu said while committing to the UW. "I'm happy because in football here mostly Samoans and Tongans are successful, and I'm proud to be the first Fijian."

As a freshman, he spent the 2017 season in the weight room, building strength to go with his exceptional size. The following year, he appeared in all 14 Huskies games, pulling considerable time as a reserve at left tackle once Adams was lost for the season. 

Bainivalu's progress was momentarily stunted to begin this past season. He drew a three-game suspension from the coaching staff for some undisclosed program misstep, penalized along with tight end Devin Culp.

By the end of the season, all was forgotten. Bainivalu became the starter at right guard and performed at such a high level against Washington State and Boise State, the position belongs to him now.

Kirkland since has moved to the money position of left tackle. Who knows, he might have had trouble getting his old job back.

SUMMARY: Unlike Nick Harris, Luke Wattenberg, Adams and Kirkland, Bainivalu didn't start as a freshman, which is the sign of a truly elite player. It took him a while longer. For one reason, the others were in his way. 

GRADE (1 to 5): Bainivalu rates a 3, with the possibility of making a big jump. He still has just two college starts under his belt. Yet he has the potential to become an honors candidate and NFL player before he's done.