This was not news Washington football coach Chris Petersen wanted to announce: Junior defensive back Austin Joyner and junior defensive lineman Jared Pulu are retiring from football because of medical issues.
Joyner, was forced to retire because of concussions, Petersen said Thursday, and Pulu has a kidney condition.
“Those are hard things, but they are in great care right now,” Petersen said. “They will stay with us and always be part of us.”
Joyner, a Marysville Pilchuck graduate who missed the past two games, recorded 56 tackles in three seasons, including 40 in 2017. He played in four games this season and was named the UW coaches’ special-teams player of the game against North Dakota, Petersen said.
“The thing that is good about this situation is this probably would have never happened eight years ago,” Petersen said, talking about the change in attitude toward head injuries. “Guys get concussions and you go. You heal up and you go. But I think everybody is just on top of this, and it’s, ‘How many has he had? How serious is this?’” Everybody is hypersensitive to this, which I think is a good thing.”
Petersen said Joyner “has had a couple (concussions) since he has been here, and this was our doctor saying this was what had to happen.”
Joyner was the Herald’s Offensive Player of the Year in consecutive seasons while at Marysville Pilchuck, rushing for 1,768 yards and 32 touchdowns on 133 carries as a senior. He also earned Gatorade Washington Player of the Year honors following his 2014 senior campaign and amassed 5,593 rushing yards in his prep career.
Joyner told the Herald on the eve of his senior season that he would play only on defense after high school.
“It came down to career-wise, you have a much longer career at corner than you do at running back,” he said. “I want to be healthy and be able to walk and hang out with my kids when I’m older.”
Joyner also missed virtually all of his freshman season at UW after injuring his knee on the opening kickoff in the first game of the campaign.
Petersen said Joyner will still be active with the team.
“We would like him to do more than just hang around,” he said. “When those guys retire, we still honor their scholarship, and we want them involved somehow, whether it’s in the athletic department, or with us, or whatever their interests lie. They will always be with us.”
Pulu, a Federal Way native, had eight tackles in two seasons with the Huskies. He had not played in 2018 and played in 10 games last season. Pulu, 6-foot-4 and 281 pounds, came to Washington as a walk-on. He was awarded a scholarship before this season.
“It’s tough, with all the hard work he has put in,” Petersen said. “He was really going to be a contributor for us on that D-line, which is a hard place for us to find guys. The good thing is he is close to getting graduated. We’ve still got him until he gets graduated. He’ll get that done, and that’s the primary reason these guys are here.
“He’s got a great attitude, and he’s helping us out with coaching and those types of things.”
In high school in 2014, Pulu nearly died after suffering an allergic reaction to anesthetic during surgery to repair a torn labrum.
“This is rare thing he has had for a long time, and it has to do with his kidneys,” Petersen said.