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Originally published November 9, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 9, 2007 at 2:03 AM

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UW Football | There's no holding back

Stanford was heading toward the end zone, and given the way this Washington season has gone, who knows what might have happened next? Instead, middle linebacker Trenton...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Stanford was heading toward the end zone, and given the way this Washington season has gone, who knows what might have happened next?

Instead, middle linebacker Trenton Tuiasosopo twice met a Cardinal head on, helping stop two Stanford runs at the goal line, the latter resulting in a fumble the Huskies recovered at the 1-yard line.

"I feel that if we were able to convert there, the game would have been much different," said Stanford quarterback T.C. Ostrander, whose team trailed 10-3 during the second-quarter sequence and went on to lose 27-9.

That Tuiasosopo was out there, putting his head down with no fear, no trepidation, is something he still considers as big a victory as anything else that happens on the field.

Tuiasosopo's career was in danger — and for a few moments there was concern about his life — when he smashed into a concrete pylon while riding his bike in March 2005, suffering a head injury that left him in critical condition for a night. He eventually had facial-reconstruction surgery, and doctors made an incision across his skull while inserting eight titanium plates into his head.

While Tuiasosopo's memory of the incident remains hazy, it's something that remains on his mind when he's on the field.

"It's very humbling," said Tuiasosopo, who has started the past two games in place of the injured Donald Butler and is expected to start again Saturday at Oregon State. "I feel really blessed that I've been given a second chance to play. I never thought that it would come down to what it is, that I would be able to participate and start."

He said he has no limitations from the accident, suffers no more headaches after a game than anyone else, and doesn't have to wear any special equipment.

The accident forced him to sit out the 2005 season, and though he returned to play in 12 games last season, he admits, "I was still not sure if I could participate fully."

But now he has no worries, evidenced by his full-throttle stop of Stanford's Owen Marecic for a 1-yard loss in the second quarter Saturday.

On the following play, Stanford's Corey Gatewood tried the middle and was again met by Tuiasosopo, who held him high while teammate Byron Davenport went low and forced a fumble that was recovered by Mesphin Forrester.

"That's crunch time for you," said UW coach Tyrone Willingham. "Your linebackers have to be involved, especially if it's to your side and they've got gap responsibility, and Trenton was."

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Tuiasosopo admits his run defense is the strength of his game, which could put him in the thick of the action Saturday against the Beavers. Oregon State is expected to heavily emphasize the run, led by the legs of running back Yvenson Bernard, who is back after missing last week with an injury.

Tuiasosopo, a graduate of Mariner High in the Mukilteo School District, is a first cousin of Marques Tuiasosopo, and committed to UW in the summer of 2003 shortly after Rick Neuheisel had been fired as coach.

Trenton Tuiasosopo was on his way to a football meeting on the day of the accident, swerving to avoid a jogger. He wasn't wearing a helmet, which he admits was a mistake. But he has been told the way he hit the pylon — with the lower part of his face instead of the forehead — it might not have mattered.

He still has the wrecked bike, but hasn't gotten around to fixing it and walks everywhere.

"I don't have any phobia," he said of riding a bike again. "If I was to jump on my bike now, I would. But I would wear my football helmet."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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