Laiatu Latu’s holiday haul of awards continues to grow.
Already the Pac-12 Conference’s defensive player of the year, the UCLA edge rusher on Wednesday night added the Lombardi Award to his list of achievements. Latu becomes the first player in school history to win the award that goes to the college offensive lineman, tight end, defensive lineman or linebacker who embodies the character and discipline of Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi while also exhibiting outstanding performance on the field.
Four other UCLA players had previously been finalists — Jerry Robinson in 1978, Jonathan Ogden in 1995, Dave Ball in 2003 and Anthony Barr in 2013.
After leading the nation in tackles for loss per game (1.8) and ranking fourth in sacks per game (1.08), Latu beat out a list of fellow finalists that included Notre Dame offensive tackle Joe Alt, Georgia tight end Brock Bowers and Utah defensive lineman Jonah Elliss.
It’s another storybook moment for a player who was forced to medically retire at Washington before transferring before the 2022 season to UCLA, where Latu helped turn a middling defense into one of the nation’s best a year later.
Latu is also a finalist for the Bednarik Award that goes to the most outstanding defensive player, the LOTT Impact Award for the best defensive player and the Ted Hendricks Award for defensive end of the year.
Widely projected as a top pick in the 2024 NFL draft, Latu has another season of eligibility remaining but has not announced his intentions. UCLA coach Chip Kelly said he had spoken with Latu about his decision and would also talk to Latu’s mother, Kerry, this week.