Sept. 12, 2008
By Matt Winter
If Husky sports had a royal family, Trenton Tuiasosopo would be a part of it.His cousins, Marques and Zach, both starred for the Dawgs before leaving forthe NFL. His cousin, Leslie, is a former All Pac-10 volleyball player and currentassistant coach for the Huskies. His younger cousin, Ashley, currently playsoutfield for the UW softball team. His younger brother, Tyler, is also making hismark at UCLA as a walk-on fullback. Growing up in a family like that, it's hardto imagine Trenton not excelling as an athlete.
'Being around my family the way we were brought up,' he says, 'and withme playing ball, they were always there for me and helped me in every area.They really helped me out whether it was football, basketball or wrestling.Having their guidance and their support really helped me to excel and focuson the team.'
A 2004 graduate of Mariner High School in Everett, Wash., Tuiasosopowas selected to many All-State and All-America teams. After being recruitedby many Pac-10 suitors, Trenton followed the path that so many Tuiasosoposdid before him - he chose to hone his talents at Washington.
Tuiasosopo redshirted his initial season at the UW and in the spring of2005, life as he knew it, would be forever altered. In March of 2005, whileriding his bicycle, he swerved to avoid a jogger and crashed, causing severehead injuries. The accident left the previously invincible Tuiasosopo batteredand broken. He remembered nothing of the accident when he woke up in thehospital.
'I didn't even know how bad it was until I finally got out of surgery and gotback home,' he remembers.
That surgery included placing nine titanium plates in his face, havingreconstructive surgery on the entire left side of his face, and repairing a cutfrom ear to ear that needed 200-plus stitches. When it came to getting better,he remembers having to overcome the mental shock of the injury just as muchas the physical consequences.
'After every accident, people always say, `Why me?'' Tuiasosopo says onhis initial shock. 'When I figured out what had happened to me and how badit was, I was praying `Thank God that I'm actually alive to be here.''
After intense rehab Tuiasosopo was able to come back for the 2006season, although he admitted that he was not quite 100 percent recoveredfrom the injuries. He had limited playing time, mostly on special teams, but2006 was less about standing out and more about getting used to playingfootball again.
'Everyone knows this is a physical and violent game,' he explained. 'Iwas eager to get back to playing, but I was unsure of how I would be able toperform with my face being the way it was. My first time coming back I wasreally timid -- I really was not trying to use my head to hit or tackle or anything.I'd go out before practice and pray, `Lord watch over me let's have a goodpractice,' and I'd go out there and see what I can do.'
He admits that it was a gradual process. After a two seasons of rehabilitationand scattered playing time, Tui was ready to go in 2007. Listed as a co-starterat middle linebacker with Donald Butler, it was time to get rid of his inhibitionsand start playing football the way he had played before the accident. In theDawgs' first game at Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, Tui showed he was readyfrom the get-go. On the game's first play from scrimmage, the Orangemenran a swing pass to the sideline that Tuiasosopo was manning. He was ableto chase down the runner and make the play -- recording the first tackle ofthe season.
'It was a very emotional moment for me because I hadn't played in sucha long time and being able to play, start, and make the first play, I was like,`Alright, let's start rolling from here,'' he says.
'That's something I'll remember forever, because I don't want to takeanything for granted after what has happened to me.'
That perspective on life is what has changed his perspective on footballfor the better. No longer do top-10 teams and All-American linemen intimidatehim.
'I don't care who I'm going against now. I don't care who I have got nextweek. I don't care what I got right now, I'm going to get it done,' he says. 'It'salways been about the team so wherever they need me--scout team or outon the field--whatever they want me to do, I'm going do it. I'm just blessedto be here and do what I can.'
Hoping to build off of his 39 tackles in 2007, Tuiasosopo enters his seniorseason again in the mix with the linebacking corps -- a group much moreexperienced than they were a season ago. Despite all that has happened, hestill has hopes of taking football to the next level. Fortunately for the Huskies,his departure may still be two years off after being granted a sixth year ofeligibility by the NCAA.
'I'll go through this year, hopefully I'll have a good season, and then seewhat the [NFL] has in store for me,' he says. 'And if not, I have a degree undermy belt and if possible, I might go for my masters.'
While Tuiasosopo has many choices ahead of him after the season, thereis one thing that is for certain. There will be a clan of Tuiasosopos supportinghim and rooting for him along the way.