For a long time, Edefuan Ulofoshio was known by a different name.
“The only reason I was going by Jeffrey is because my kindergarten teacher would always butcher (Edefuan),” Washington’s redshirt freshman linebacker said with a gap-toothed grin last November. “My mom got sick of it and decided, ‘Call him Jeffrey. Call him Jeffrey.’ So when I went to high school and I would tell them what my real name is, I remember (former high school teammate and current Miami tight end) Brevin Jordan telling me, ‘Then why the hell do we call you Jeff?’
“So it was just more like, if I’m really going to be myself, I’ve got to go by my real name.”
That’s the name Washington football fans so frequently heard repeated out of the Husky Stadium speakers last season, when Edefuan exploded for 47 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and a forced fumble — earning a starting job along the way. The 6-foot, 231-pound inside linebacker was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week following the 19-7 win over Oregon State on Nov. 8, when he contributed a team-high nine tackles with 1.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.
Not bad for a walk-on, right?
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel that way,” Ulofoshio said, when asked if his walk-on status serves as motivation. “I never really think of myself as a walk-on until the beginning of the quarter, when I have to pay. It’s just honestly being the best football player I can be. It’s not really about being a walk-on.”
And now, it’s not about that at all. Because, at a team meeting on Sunday, UW head coach Jimmy Lake officially awarded Ulofoshio a scholarship.
“I’ll tell you this: some of you don’t know this story,” Lake told the team, in a video that was later published on Twitter. “In training camp this year, I’m down doing my boards (drawing up plays) in the DB room. It’s 5:50 in the morning. No one ever comes in. The door opens. I’m like, ‘Who the hell? What’s going on?’ It’s Eddy. Eddy’s in there at 5:50 in the morning, seeing what we’re installing so he can get a jump on it. How about that? That’s how you do it right there.”
Lake can expect more company in 2020, when Ulofoshio will likely be counted on as a starter on the second level. He joins defensive lineman Josiah Bronson, outside linebacker Ryan Bowman and placekicker Peyton Henry as current Huskies who earned scholarships at UW.
Of Washington’s other scholarship inside linebackers — sophomores Jackson Sirmon and M.J. Tafisi; redshirt freshmen Josh Calvert, Daniel Heimuli, Miki Ah You and Alphonzo Tuputala; and true freshmen Cooper McDonald and Carson Bruener — none have started a game on the college level. They’ll have to learn quickly.
Ulofoshio already has.
“Eddy has done a great job of coming in here, and he’s not a true freshman but he’s stuck to this script for a year and a half now,” former UW head coach Chris Petersen said of Ulofoshio last fall. “You can just tell because it’s kind of how he shows up every day, the way he thinks about things. You know when a guy is real about it and other guys are fighting through it.”
Edefuan Ulofoshio has been fighting for quite a while. He fought to earn a starting spot at Las Vegas prep powerhouse Bishop Gorman, where he piled up 100 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, four fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and two interceptions as a senior in 2017. He fought to earn playing time as a walk-on at Washington, despite earning scholarship offers from Northern Arizona and Robert Morris as well. He’s still fighting to earn a degree in biology from UW, with the eventual goal of becoming a doctor.
He’s fighting to make every fan and critic remember his name — his real name.
And, sure, a scholarship helps.
“It would be huge, but it would just be huge because I got four brothers and nothing’s guaranteed,” Ulofoshio said of the prospect of earning a scholarship last fall. “So if my parents don’t have to pay for one of their tuitions, it would be great. It would be more important for me to tell my parents, than for me overall.
“It’s definitely something that I think about, but at the end of the day I would be upset if getting a scholarship was the whole highlight of my college career. I have bigger goals and bigger aspirations. That’s just a little piece of it.”