For two straight years, BYU tight end Moroni Laulu-Pututau has had to spend a lot of time watching the rest of the Cougars on the football field.
Difficult injuries — and some academic requirements this summer — have forced him to look deep inside to figure out how to handle all of the challenges.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” Laulu-Pututau said. “I feel a lot wiser, a lot more mature. I have a different appreciation for the game and a different outlook on life in general — but it’s exciting. It’s as exciting as it was the very first day. Football doesn’t last forever, so I’m excited to use the time I have and see where it goes.”
While not yet cleared academically, Laulu-Pututau said he is getting close to physically being ready to play again as he is almost fully recovered from the knee injury he suffered at Washington last year.
“I’m getting really close,” Laulu-Pututau said. “I’m not there yet, but I’m close. It’s exciting for me because now I feel like I’m getting back to where I was. It feels good. I’m finally seeing the results from the past nine months.”
Having been through the grind of recuperating from that type of significant injury twice, the BYU senior said his advice is to face the challenges head on.
“First of all, you have to accept that it’s going to be hard and that you are going to have questions and doubts,” Laulu-Pututau said. “But you need that. You have to fix all those things in your mind first and then stay consistent. It’s long, so you have to remember why you do it. That motivation helps you get through it.”
When he looks at the young players on the team, however, he knows that there is no way to truly get them to understand the impact those types of injuries can have.
“It’s like that feeling when your parents tell you that you will understand someday,” Laulu-Pututau said. “Until it happens to you, you don’t understand. You can’t really appreciate it until you go through it.”
Now, however, he can sense that his time is coming once again.
“It will be so nice,” Laulu-Pututau said. “It will be the second time coming around, to be able to get back out on the field and play with the guys. It sucks watching, especially when you feel like you should be out there. It will be a relief.”
BYU needs Laulu-Pututau’s ability and experience on the field, particularly since fellow tight end Hank Tuipulotu hurt his knee again.
“He’s been around,” BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said. “He’s been through some really tough times and some really good times too. Having him is going to be really important.”
Sitake said fans who watch Laulu-Pututau in action in the games only see a little of his contribution.
“There are the little things he does with the tight end position group and also with our offense and our team,” Sitake said. “He is around for our guys and he’s working hard. Everyone understands what he can do on the field but the stuff he does off the field really helps us with regards to camaraderie and feeling the family atmosphere. He’s a big part of that.”
Laulu-Pututau said one of the most important lessons he has learned is how to manage his emotions and hopes that will allow him to be a consistent contributor throughout the 2019 season.
“You hear at the beginning to not get too high and not get too low,” Laulu-Pututau said. “Now I’m finally understanding why. I feel like I’ve finally mastered that, so that in the high times I stay composed and in the low times I don’t let it get to me. I feel like emotionally I’m ready. It’s the most ready I’ve ever been — mentally and emotionally — for the game and what comes with it.”