Laiatu Latu, the indomitable force anchoring the defense
for the UCLA Bruins, stands as a symbol of unwavering
resilience and gridiron excellence. Confronting a careerthreatening
neck injury and undertaking a transformative
journey from Washington to UCLA, Latu not only reclaimed
his position in collegiate football but has ascended to the
forefront as a leading contender for Defensive Player of the
Latu’s path to UCLA began in high school, where he
showcased his versatility as an outside linebacker and
tight end at Jesuit. His senior season was nothing short of
extraordinary, tallying 94 total tackles and an impressive
29.5 tackles for loss. His recognition as the Delta League’s
co-All-Purpose Player of the Year and participation in
the prestigious Polynesian Bowl further emphasized his
potential as a rising football talent.
Latu’s journey was shaped by the support and influence
of his family. Growing up with his brother Keleki and his
mom Kerry, Latu’s family expanded with the arrival of his
sisters, Melenaite and Aulani. Their shared love for sports,
instilled by their mom’s background in volleyball, basketball,
and various sports, created a foundation for Latu and his
brother to engage in rugby, basketball, and other sports.
This familial bond, steeped in a love for sports, was pivotal
in shaping Latu’s athletic trajectory.
The injury Latu faced early in his career became a turning
point, teaching him the value of a positive mindset and
the determination to never give up on lifelong goals.
His reminder that every day on the field could be his last
underscores his gratitude for the opportunity to play the
sport he loves.
Latu’s off-field pursuits reveal a multifaceted individual.
In his free time, he enjoys moments with his girlfriend,
playing video games with teammates, hiking, and going
beach outings with friends. His appreciation for UCLA,
acknowledging the university’s “chance” on him, reflects
a deep gratitude for the opportunity to learn from great
professors and earn a diploma at the #1 university in the US.
Latu’s journey is intertwined with faith, as he emphasizes
the importance of prayer in his life. Realizing the potential
end of his playing career has changed his outlook on life,
with a profound focus on the concept of “Your Last.” Latu’s
engagement in big brother big sister programs since high
school highlights a compassionate side, as he values being
a part of others’ lives and stories, cherishing the special
connection he holds dear.
Latu’s impact on the UCLA Bruins’ defense has been nothing
short of exceptional. Latu’s remarkable 2023 season, marked
by leading the nation in tackles for a loss and boasting the
most sacks among Power 5 conference players, solidifies his
status as a defensive powerhouse. UCLA head coach Chip
Kelly on Latu, “His work ethic is second to none, for him to
put up the numbers he’s done this year, a tremendous year,
but the stats don’t tell the story. The story about Laitu is
just about what a special young man he is, his resiliency, his
work ethic, and how much he cares about his teammates.”
In a season marked by resilience, unmatched performance,
and a deep appreciation for the opportunities presented,
Laiatu Latu has not only overcome adversity but has
emerged as a defensive standout for the UCLA Bruins. His
journey, from high school accolades to collegiate excellence,
reflects determination, skill, and a commitment to making a
lasting impact on and off the field.
We’re always happy to pay tribute to the giants of the past whose shoulders we proudly stand on. With a tradition of recognizing and honoring the accomplishments of the brightest and best from our industry, we are happy to present the past winners below. If you’d like more information, feel free to get in touch.