PROVO — When BYU tight end Moroni Laulu-Pututau suffered a season-ending knee injury last September at Washington, a little more than a year after a Lisfranc foot injury that cost him the entire 2017 campaign, he knew he needed to reach out to a former Cougar for counsel and inspiration.
Laulu-Pututau texted Taysom Hill, who endured four season-ending injuries in five seasons at BYU. Hill has become a star playing multiple positions with the New Orleans Saints of the NFL.
“I got to play with Taysom and after every major injury, I’d text him and he was really good to get back to me. He would give me advice,” Laulu-Pututau said. “We talked after my Lisfranc injury, too. He’s had his fair share of injuries and he’s shared his insights with me. It helps seeing where he’s at, knowing it’s possible.”
Right now, Laulu-Pututau, a 6-foot-5, 242-pound senior, has his sights set on being healthy and ready to play when the Cougars open the season Aug. 29 against Utah.
Laulu-Pututau didn’t participate in spring practices but he plans to be cleared for fall camp at the end of July.
“My goal is fall camp I want to be ready. Whenever I feel 100 percent, that’s when it will be,” he said. “I feel ahead of schedule. I’m staying optimistic. I feel good about it.”
Last October, he underwent a groundbreaking ACL surgery a couple of weeks after his injury that is projected to return injured athletes to the field 40 percent faster than traditional surgery. The procedure was developed by eminent surgeon Dr. James Andrews.
Deseret News columnist Dick Harmon reported details about the surgery last fall. Laulu-Pututau became the first athlete outside the state of Alabama to undergo the procedure. So he’s a pioneer of sorts.
“There are two other football players in the East that have gotten it. I was the first in the West,” he said. “It happened so fast. It all happened within two weeks. It had to be cleared through the school. It was a blessing. There are five others at BYU who also had the surgery since I did. We’re going through this together.”
After two major injuries the past two years, what is it that makes him want to persevere and keep playing football?
“I look back and I think about everything that’s gotten me to this point. There’s no way I went through all that just to get hurt and not play anymore. That can’t be the reason,” Laulu-Pututau said. “I feel I have a talent and an opportunity that not many people have. I’ve just got to take a chance. I don’t want to go 10 years down the road and look back and wonder why I didn’t keep trying. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’m going to give it my all and see how it works out.”
Last season, Laulu-Pututau caught 14 passes for 120 yards and one touchdown in five games.
He arrived at BYU in 2015, after a mission to Chile, as a wide receiver. After the 2016 season, Laulu-Pututau was switched to tight end. Since August of 2017, he’s been beset by injuries.
“Before my mission, I never got hurt ever in my life. I’m 60 pounds heavier than I was in high school. Different position, different level. That’s football. Things happen,” he said. “Throughout it all, I could say it’s made me look at life totally differently. Any student-athlete is thrown into their world and that’s all there really is. The second that leaves you, you’re kind of hanging high and dry. It’s help me grow as a person over the years.”
As he works to return to the field and be a contributor, his perspective has changed dramatically.
“You feel invincible when you’re young. You realize that the human body takes a lot of work to keep it healthy. It can do some extraordinary things,” he said. “I have two random people’s hamstrings in my MCL as cadavers. It’s amazing to me that you can do that these days. I definitely take my health more seriously than I did when I first got here to BYU.”
Laulu-Pututau is grateful for the support of his teammates, coaches and family, including his wife, Kiralyn.
“They go through emotional ups and downs with me,” he said. “They hate to see me get hurt. The highs are high and the lows are low. But I’ve got to keep going.”