ZTF Caps Short But Sweet Season with AP Third-Team Selection

The sophomore outside linebacker emerged as a breakout player for the Huskies in the COVID-challenged season.

Two months ago, Zion Tupuola-Fetui was a backup outside linebacker.

On the first depth chart offered by the University of Washington football program, five days before its scheduled and later canceled Nov. 7 opener against California, the player known as ZTF showed up as a sub.

The 6-foot-3, 280-pound sophomore from Pearl City, Hawaii — which looks out on the historic World War II battlefield of Pearl Harbor — filled a slot behind returning senior Ryan Bowman.

Now, nearly two full months later, Tupuola-Fetui has emerged as a third-team pick on the All-Alabama, oops, make that the Associated Press All-American team. This comes a week following his first-team All-Pac-12 selection.

ZTF is the only Husky and one of just three Pac-12 choices who received these elite national honors, which no doubt weighed heavily on game participation in a pandemic-disrupted college football season.

A whopping six Alabama players were named as first-team AP selections, including five on offense, and seven Crimson Tide guys in all, on this 75-player grouping. 

As evidence of the criteria involved, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who missed a handful of games because of COVID-19, was relegated to the AP's third team, behind Alabama's Mac Jones and Florida's Kyle Trask. Lawrence was the AP first-teamer in 2019.

Joining Tupola-Fetui from the Pac-12 on the Associated Press team were USC junior safety Talanoa Hufanga, a first-unit pick, and Oregon sophomore defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, who was a third-teamer. 

ZTF received his big chance this season when sophomore outside linebacker Laiatu Latu, who was slotted opposite Bowman in the Husky starting lineup, became injured before the opener and never played in the abbreviated four-game schedule.

Tupuola-Fetui moved to the other side as the starter opposite Bowman and was an instant sensation, collecting seven sacks for 49 lost yards, causing three fumbles and returning one of them. 

ZTF and Latu likely will be paired together next fall when college football returns and supply a fairly formidable pass rush for Washington.

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