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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Letuli granted sixth UH year

 •  Don't short-change UH's Estes

BY Stephen Tsai
HawaiiWarriorBeat.com Editor

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Laupepa Letuli

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In a decision that hurt so good, the NCAA yesterday approved Hawai'i offensive lineman Laupepa Letuli's request for a medical hardship that will allow him to play as a sixth-year senior in 2010.

The confirmation came four days after the NCAA denied UH linebacker Brashton Satele's similar request, and it ended Letuli's quest that began in September.

"I'm very happy to be coming back," said Letuli, who is listed as the Warriors' No. 1 right tackle. "I'm happy for my family, too."

Letuli was approaching the crossroads of his football career. The three-day National Football League draft begins tomorrow. After the final pick of the seventh round, NFL teams are allowed to offer free-agent contracts to qualified players. Letuli needed to notify the NFL if he were available to field free-agent offers.

"It was getting frustrating when I didn't hear anything (from the NCAA)," Letuli said. "I got the answer I wanted."

Citing past cases, Letuli argued that he missed two full UH seasons because of injuries.

During the 2005 training camp, when Letuli was a true freshman, he suffered ligament damage to his right shoulder. He did not play a down that season.

In 2009, he suffered a tendon injury in his left knee. The injury prevented him from running. He even underwent a blood-spinning procedure in which his blood was drawn, treated, and then injected into the damaged tendon.

Letuli provided what the NCAA calls contemporaneous documents notes written in the year he was injured.

"My mom really helped me out," Letuli said. "Plus, Eric (Okazaki, UH's head athletic trainer). They documented everything."

Because his availability was in question three weeks ago, Letuli opted to participate in UH's Pro Day in Carson, Calif. The combine drew more than 50 NFL scouts and personnel directors. He maintained his UH eligibility by not signing with an agent.

At Pro Day, Letuli, who is 6 feet 3 1/2 and 325 pounds, bench pressed 225 pounds 29 times, and had a vertical jump of 25 1/2 inches. He completed the pro-agility shuttle in 4.81 seconds.

Soon after, the NCAA gave Letuli conditional permission to participate in UH's spring training. But to minimize the injury risk while Letuli awaited his appeal, he was held out of contact drills.

Letuli said he is ready to resume full workouts this morning.

"I wouldn't say I'm in the best shape right now," Letuli said, "but I'm in the direction of losing weight."

He said he would like to report to training camp weighing about 305 pounds. "It's good to be back," Letuli said.