Exit interview: Faatui Tuitele is done playing football, but hopes to stick with the game
The Washington d-tackle reflects on his career, college football's changing landscape, Kalen DeBoer's departure and more.
He played through a torn left pectoral muscle his senior year of high school. The year before, he dislocated his elbow. Faatui Tuitele arrived at Washington as a heralded recruit in the 2019 class, a four-star defensive tackle from Honolulu’s St. Louis School, but even then, his football career had been marked by pain.
He played in 43 games across a five-year career at UW, with 24 starts. He might not have been healthy for any of them.
“I had to get surgery on my knee, surgery on my Achilles,” Tuitele said via telephone on Tuesday from Hawaii. “I had to do a lot of other little procedures on my elbow that I dislocated, because there was a problem still lingering with it. I tore my triceps in fall camp 2022. That’s what I can name off the top of my head.”
The tipping point came in the 2023 season opener, when he popped his right hamstring on his first play against Boise State. That injury sidelined him for the next two games. “After that, I was just like, you know what, I don’t think my body is holding up anymore,” Tuitele said. “I don’t think I can do this any longer.” It wasn’t just the pain. The injuries and surgeries wrecked his offseasons, making it more difficult to prepare his body for each subsequent year.
“That’s what took a lot of impact and toll on me throughout these years,” he said. “These injuries were just piling on, and I didn’t think I could really go one more year. I was just barely pushing through for the team, and putting myself on the line for them.”