The Washington Huskies' 52-42 win over the USC Trojans in Week 10 meant more than just a football victory to redshirt senior edge rusher Zion Tupuola-Fetui, as his father passed away Oct. 28.
Unreal night for ZTF. He knows his father was watching. Hard to not love this guy. pic.twitter.com/8jD8ZB6ErN
— Dave ?Softy? Mahler (@Softykjr) November 5, 2023
In the clip above, Tupuloa-Fetui — also known as ZTF — was asked, "Obviously an emotional night for you. You lost your dad last week. We know you love him. Tell me what this meant to you."
"Yeah, you know, I just, um ... This week was really hard," ZTF said, overcome with emotion and with tears running down his face.
"I knew my dad would want me to play, you know he loves this game, he loves UW, bro, and I know I just be doing him wrong if I didn't play," he said. "But uh, I'm thankful I was able to play good in his memory. ... I see him playing through me, you know? The beginning of the game I don't even know if I wanted to play, to be honest. I'm here for my brothers, but I'm glad I was able to play a good game, bro."
And a good game it was.
ZTF played 52 total snaps, including 33 rushing the passer. He had two sacks, four pressures and two hurries on Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams, a top prospect in the upcoming 2024 NFL Draft.
On his left arm, ZTF wrote, "OGHAMO," his father's nickname. On his right arm he wrote "R.I.L.," for "Rest In Life."
According to the Seattle Times, "Last Saturday, Molia Fetui — Zion's father — died of an illness at 58. He passed during a nap prior to his son's game at Stanford, a 42-33 Husky win. The 6-foot-4, 254-pound edge was told the news before boarding a team plane back to Seattle."
In the USC game, with the score tied 28-28 with 1:09 to go in the first half, Williams dropped back and ZTF swarmed him, creating a fumble and pushing the Trojans back deeper into their own territory.
— Washington Football (@UW_Football) November 5, 2023
Huskies co-defensive coordinator Chuck Morrell hugged ZTF after the game.
UW co-DC Chuck Morrell hugs an emotional Zion Tupuola-Fetui, who made one of the plays of the game a week after his father passed away pic.twitter.com/0CMxGDvWGf
— Mike Vorel (@mikevorel) November 5, 2023
"I think I was doing pretty good until I wrote [the tributes] down, to be honest," he said after the win. "I really felt him with me for the rest of the game. I try to keep a cool head around my teammates and cry to myself, but today it poured out of me.
"They say you only cry as hard as you loved them. I think I'll be crying for a while. I'm just thankful we were able to do this and I was able to honor his memory in that way."
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