Senior quarterback Sefo Liufau, a Tacoma native who wasn’t even sure he would be able to play his final season for Colorado, will lead the No. 9 Buffaloes (10-2) against No. 4 Washington (11-1) in Friday’s Pac-12 championship game in Santa Clara, Calif.

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The resurrection of the Colorado Buffaloes is a wonderful story, one made even better because of the quarterback who has inspired the charge for the program’s rise from worst to first in the Pac-12 South.

Senior quarterback Sefo Liufau, a Tacoma native who wasn’t even sure he would be able to play his final season for Colorado, will lead the No. 9 Buffaloes (10-2) against No. 4 Washington (11-1) in Friday’s Pac-12 championship game in Santa Clara, Calif.

“It’s the right thing,” Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said. “Sometimes the right things don’t happen in guys’ careers. This has definitely worked out the right way, Sefo leading us to where we are. He’s been our leader, he’s been our warrior and for him to be able to see it come to fruition the way it has — it’s just right.

“This is kind of a storybook ending.”

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All the injuries over the years, all the losses, and even the team’s flirtation with a touted transfer quarterback — it’s all been worth it to get to this point, Liufau says.

“It’s unbelievable, to be honest,” Liufau said in a phone interview this week. “It’s a great feeling to help bring this program back and turn it around. We’re doing a pretty good job so far, but we’ve got a couple more opportunities to do some really special things.”

A four-year starter and three-year team captain, Liufau suffered a major foot injury in November 2015, prematurely ending his junior season. It wasn’t clear if he would be ready in time to return this season, which was why Colorado coaches flirted with graduate transfer Davis Webb, who appeared headed to Boulder before changing his mind and going to California at the 11th hour.

After a long offseason of rehabilitation, Liufau was finally cleared to play just before the start of fall camp in August.

His endurance and mettle have earned the respect of teammates and opponents.

“The guy is a tough, tough, tough competitor, and he’s got my respect, got our team’s respect,” UW co-defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said.

An upset of the Huskies in the title game Friday would guarantee no worse than Colorado’s first-ever trip to the Rose Bowl. Either way, they’re assured of the program’s first bowl berth since 2007.

An amazing turnaround it’s been for the Buffaloes, who won just five league games in their first five years as a member of the Pac-12. The Buffaloes went 8-1 this season to capture the South division championship.

“It was really frustrating over the years,” Liufau said. “It’s tough to play in those November games when nothing really mattered. All the guys wanted to do was be successful and go to a bowl game, but it wasn’t happening for us. It took a lot to rally the guys and bring everyone together to continue to fight and push toward our goals.”

Liufau owns or shares 87 school records, and needs only one more touchdown pass to become Colorado’s all-time leader.

Growing up in Tacoma, a young Liufau would sometimes join his father, Joe, on Army physical training sessions or pickup basketball runs at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

“Playing basketball with those guys, I had to mature a lot quicker than most kids,” he said. “I couldn’t complain about fouls or anything like that. I had to be tough. …

“I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not the most fundamentally sound quarterback. I don’t have the best mechanics. But I work hard in everything I do.”

He has completed 179 of 277 passes for 2,150 yards with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions this season. At 6 feet 4, 230 pounds, he is also a power-running threat, with 483 yards rushing and seven touchdowns this year.

He’s also played well in big games this season. At No. 4 Michigan in September, he threw for 246 yards and three touchdowns, helping the Buffaloes to a 28-24 third-quarter lead before he was knocked out of the game with an ankle injury. Michigan rallied to win 45-28.

He was also injured early in Colorado’s 21-17 setback at USC on Oct. 8. The Buffaloes haven’t lost since.

Against Washington State two weeks ago, he had 453 yards of total offense — including three rushing TDs. And last week against Utah, he had 270 yards passing, 59 yards rushing and two scores to clinch the South title.

Going up against Washington’s defense, he said, will be a challenge.

“We’re going to have to have an efficient, consistent game on offense. I’m going to have to be a lot better if we want to win,” he said. “It’s a good matchup with their defense and our offense.”