Now you see him, now you don’t. Now you see him … and, well, you’ll see him for good.
Arizona offensive lineman Donovan Laie became UA football’s best recruit in the last few months when he decided to return to the program after deciding to leave just more than two weeks ago. The first 48 hours of his decision wasn’t easy on the Cats.
Arizona offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said he raised his arms in jubilation when he heard the news Laie, who has started 24 straight games, would return. He probably wasn’t alone. Arizona needs players like Laie, likely the best player not named Grant Gunnell on the offensive side of the ball.
“I came back just because I felt like I was leaving family behind,” said Laie, who spoke to the local media for the first time about his decision to leave then comeback.
He said it was a tough 48 hours, wanting to go home to be closer to family after “going through a lot personally.”
“I thought the best thing for me was to go somewhere closer to home,” he said, referring to Oceanside, Calif.
Well, home is where the heart is – after all. And, well, he realized he had a home here in Tucson. Maybe more than a home but a family who loves and cares for him in the Arizona Wildcats.
And although the family unity likely came in bunches, Laie singled out his offensive line coach Kyle DeVan, Mazzone, Gunnell and his teammates on the O-Line. Family away from family.
“They gave me something I needed to hear,” he said. “Something that I’ve been wanting to hear.”
He said their concerns were “genuine.”
He declined to get specific on the personal issues but later talked about the passing of his beloved father last November.
“Just been battling with a lot of things,” he said. “Trying to stay on track for some football; trying to stay on track for myself (after losing) someone very important to me. I have a good family; I have a good support system to make it easier in a way.”
So, now he’s back on a line that looks to be one of the more stable forces on UA’s squad.
“He’s a brother to us and one of our leaders,” said DeVan, on a Zoom call Thursday.
De Van said it was a “tough 48 hours” but the best decision he made was “for him and for us.”
“…he’s going to help us win a lot of games. He’s a hell of a football player.”