Through two weeks, the play of UCLA edge rusher Laiatu Latu has been one of the best stories in all of the Pac-12.

Latu was forced to medically retire in April of 2021 because of a neck injury suffered while he was a member of the Washington program. He missed two years of football because of the injury. Then, last December, Latu announced he was transferring to UCLA to restart his playing career.

He made his first appearance in a game since 2019 when UCLA opened the season against Bowling Green. In Saturday’s 45-7 win over Alabama State, Latu was a force.

“Really, I just feel like I got my heart back,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

Latu played 31 snaps in Week 1, but he didn’t register any tackles. On Saturday, he lived in the Alabama State backfield, posting two sacks and a forced fumble. In just 27 snaps, he was the Bruins’ highest-graded player, according to PFF.

“I love the game so much and it really just feels good to be out there and playing with these guys,” he said.

The performance was particularly special to UCLA coach Chip Kelly, who initially recruited Latu out of high school when he chose Washington over the Bruins. Kelly has seen Latu work since getting to Westwood, and now he’s seeing him reap the benefits.

“It was awesome for him, and if you’ve seen how hard (he’s worked) and understand how hard he’s worked to get back, it was refreshing,” Kelly said on Monday. “He’s a great young man. We got to know him really well in the recruiting process the first time, and then he opted to go to Washington the first time. But then I think his relationship with Ikaika (Malloe) was huge.

“I loved him the first time we recruited him, but for him to get another opportunity, I think he really counts his blessings. And then to come up with two sacks and a forced fumble in his second college game back was a pretty big deal. Really, really happy for Latu. But like anything in this game, you get it because you work for it and you deserve it, and he deserved what has happened to him and hopefully, he’ll continue to grow from here.”