Laiatu Latu's Husky Career Ended by Neck Injury

The sophomore outside linebacker, who was forced to have surgery, was hurt last fall during practice.

A neck injury has ended Laiatu Latu's University of Washington football career, Husky coach Jimmy Lake disclosed on Wednesday after running his players through their first spring practice.

Latu, a promising 6-foot-5, 270-pound outside linebacker, was injured during practice last fall, met with five different medical specialists in recent months and ultimately had to undergo surgery.

He wore No. 13 for the Huskies, which proved to be an unlucky number.

"It was a tough decision to make, for sure," Lake said. "But it's in the safety obviously of our players first and foremost. We would never want to put anyone in danger of possibly not being able to use his extremities the rest of his life."

The Husky coach also shared that tight end Jacob Kizer and defensive back Isaiah Gilchrest, who opted out last fall, have moved on and aren't returning. 

Last fall, Latu's absence was never addressed after the sophomore was listed as a starter opposite senior Ryan Bowman but missed all four games. He was expected to be an impact player.

From Sacramento, California, Latu was so advanced as a Husky player he didn't redshirt and was the only lineman on either side of the ball who regularly saw game action in 2019.

Appearing in 12 of 13 games, he came up with 16 tackles, including 1.5 for lost yardage.

Eventually, fellow classmate Zion Tupuola-Fetui took over the position, led the nation in sacks per game for part of last season and became a first-team All-Pac-12 and third-team AP All-American selection.

Latu will remain with the team in some sort of coaching role, beginning next week, his coach said, and he will pursue his UW degree.

"This is a part of this physical game," Lake said. "Unfortunately, we're going to have injuries like this."

Bowman and Tupuola-Fetui took the field as the first-teamers at outside linebacker for many of the drills in Wednesday's practice, a position area that still remains one of the Huskies' strongest.

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