Washington football fans have not seen the last of “ZTF.”

Redshirt sophomore outside linebacker Zion Tupuola-Fetui, who exploded onto the scene with seven sacks and three forced fumbles in his first three career starts last season, announced Monday evening that he’ll return to Washington in 2021. Players are technically eligible to enter the NFL draft three years after graduating from high school.

Several hours earlier, All-Pac-12 first-team left tackle Jaxson Kirkland announced his intention to return in 2021 as well.

“I think it goes without saying that this team is just getting started, and so am I,” Tupuola-Fetui tweeted Monday. “See you next year Husky Nation!”

And what a start it was. Despite playing in just four games this season, Tupuola-Fetui was named a third-team All-American by The Associated Press on Monday. Last week, he was named a second-team All-American by The Athletic.

In the first three starts of his college career, the Pearl City, Hawaii, product notched seven sacks, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one pass defended — earning Pac-12 Defensive Lineman of the Week honors three consecutive times. He was subsequently dubbed a first-team All-Pac-12 performer as well.

Tupuola-Fetui led the nation with 1.75 sacks and 0.75 forced fumbles per game.


The 6-foot-3, 280-pound outside linebacker produced just nine tackles in 12 games as a reserve behind Joe Tryon and Ryan Bowman in 2019, then added 14 pounds of muscle last offseason. Without sophomore Laiatu Latu, who missed the season with an unspecified injury, Tupuola-Fetui stepped into a significant role and exceeded expectations.

UW scholarship outside linebackers Latu, Sav’ell Smalls, Cooper McDonald, Bralen Trice and Jordan Lolohea are slated to return next season as well, and the Huskies signed three-star recruit Maurice Heims in December. UW’s other starter, senior Bowman, has yet to announce whether he’ll be back in Seattle for a sixth season.

Besides Tupuola-Fetui and Bowman, Washington’s other scholarship outside linebackers have combined for 0.5 career sacks.

But “ZTF,” at least, will be back next fall to finish what he started.