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UCLA edge rusher surprised by phone call with Raiders’ Maxx Crosby

Updated January 31, 2024 - 4:42 pm

MOBILE, Ala. — UCLA edge rusher Laiatu Latu is an unabashed fan of a certain Pro Bowl defensive end on the Raiders.

“I emulate my game off Maxx Crosby,” Latu said after Wednesday’s Senior Bowl practice.

So imagine the top pass rusher in the draft’s reaction when he met with Raiders personnel this week and they mentioned he could play on the same defensive line as Crosby.

Even better, the team put Latu on the phone with his idol. And he learned Crosby is familiar with his game.

“He’s been watching my pass-rush clips,” Latu said, smiling.

Crosby likely came away impressed with the lanky Latu. It’s hard not to be. Latu had 112 pressures and 23½ sacks during his two seasons with the Bruins.

Even more impressive is the fact that he’s still playing after suffering a neck injury in 2021. Washington team doctors deemed it too serious for Latu to continue playing. He spent a full year recovering before transferring to UCLA, where the Bruins medical staff cleared him to return to the field in 2022.

Latu’s injury concerns are now a thing of the past. He is expected to go somewhere in the middle of the first round of April’s draft and compete for a role right away.

Latu, like Crosby, is a gifted player with long arms, speed and strength. The 23-year-old also has an innate feel for getting to the quarterback. It’s something he wants to show off this week at an event featuring more than 100 of college football’s top prospects.

“My goal is just to showcase that I’m the most dominant pass rusher,” Latu said. “Obviously, I have a lot to work on to keep it going, but (I want to ) show dominant pass rushing for teams to take a chance on me, and I’ll show them what I can do.”

Edge rushing might not appear to be a huge need for the Raiders on the surface.

Crosby is one of the best in the game, Malcolm Koonce took a step forward his third year and 2023 first-round pick Tyree Wilson is still highly thought of at team headquarters.

But there are reasons for the Raiders to look to add.

Koonce is entering the last year of his contract. Wilson started to play more on the interior of the defensive line as his rookie season went on.

That means Latu could be an intriguing option for the Raiders if he’s available when the team’s first scheduled pick comes around at 13th overall. He could help turn a good defensive line into a great one.

Latu, who spent his entire college career on the West Coast, may be a natural fit. All the better that he would relish playing alongside Crosby.

“They were talking about me on the other side of him,” Latu said, his smile growing. “That would be a dream come true.”

Latu has more than held his own alongside some of the best draft prospects in the country this week. That includes a stacked National Team offensive line he is practicing against daily.

“Being able to go up against them every day, I’m continuously getting better,” said Latu. “It’s incredible. I’m learning more and more about myself.”

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on X

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