STILLWATER — If you walked into the room they shared growing up, you’d hardly know the Latu brothers are twins.
Nathan’s half was messy, his bed was usually unmade and items littered the floor. Cameron kept his bed made and folded his clothes in drawers.
“Cameron hated sharing a room with Nathan… when they finally got their own rooms Cameron was very happy,” their mother Jill Argust said.
Sports is one thing the Latus both have down. Nathan is a senior defensive end at Oklahoma State. After the graduation of defensive linemen Brock Martin, Tyler Lacy, Brendon Evers and Sione Asi and transfer of edge rusher Trace Ford to Oklahoma, Nathan has stepped into a major role on the Cowboys defensive front.
The San Francisco 49ers selected Cameron Latu in the third round of the 2023 NFL draft and he is beginning his professional career as a tight end.
Nathan and Cameron get all the usual questions for twins. Are they identical twins? (No, fraternal) Who is older? (Nathan, by two minutes) Who is taller? (Cameron is listed at 6-foot-5, one inch taller than Nathan) Do you guys ever get yourselves mixed up? (How would that even be possible?).
Of course, the Latus have had their squabbles. Growing up, they had different friend groups, social scenes and standards for what a clean room looked like. But make no mistake, their love their family shares runs deep.
Nathan Latu (99) and his twin brother Cameron (66) moved from Minnesota to Utah in seventh grade because their mom knew it would help college coaches find them. They quickly met Dave Allred (middle), who coaches Mount Olympus youth football. (Provided)
‘He was just trucking kids’
Their mother remembers sitting in the frigid stands at high school football games in Chisolm, Minnesota and recording Sioka, her eldest son’s, football games. Those days were before Hudl, a site dedicated to video clips for high school athletes, had taken off, so handheld videos were the only way to boost a recruiting profile.
When the twins were in the seventh grade, Argust moved with her sons to Utah where she knew there would be greater scholarship opportunities.
Nathan took an interest in rugby, a popular sport in the area in part because of a prominent Polynesian presence, while Cameron started to wrestle. Rugby became Nathan’s passion shortly after his club played a tour across Seattle and up into Canada.
Dave Allred coached both Latu twins on the football field and watched most of their rugby games as well. He said most kids Nate’s size, 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, played rugby on the front line. But because of his speed, Nate played the 12 or 13 position, outside spots usually reserved for faster players.
“He was just trucking kids,” Allred said. “So I mean…the poor kids that had to try to tackle him, it was, it was awesome. And Nate was a very gifted rugby player. I have no doubt that if he wanted to switch up and play professional rugby he could. He possesses unbelievable athleticism.”
The twins’ mother said Cameron never signed up to play rugby, but as soon as the first practice started, he always put on headgear and joined the team. It was a tricky balance, coaching the twins in rugby and as defensive linemen on the football field, Allred said.
“If one stood out in a game, it was difficult for the other one to not get accolades, so there was this really nice healthy level of competition between them,” Allred said. “I’d say, if I ever yelled good job to Nate, Cam would all of a sudden go even harder because he was upset that you weren’t giving him his props.”
The twins physically competed in practice, and the battles continued in the backseat of Allred’s suburban on rides to the gym in mornings. The twins competed for life’s simple things, like control of the remote and hated it when their mom made cookies and one got seven while the other ate six.
Jill Argust couldn’t stand it when coaches pitted her sons against each other in drills.
“I’m like, don’t do that,” Argust said. “Like, it’s already bad enough in my house with the competitiveness. I don’t need you to add on top of it.”
Nathan Latu, right, and his brother Cam, left, shown here at age 17, around the time both were on a path to play at BYU. (Photo provided).
The Latu twins’ paths diverge
The Latus’ competitive spirit translated well to the football field. They teamed up as the edge rushers on a four-man front at Olympus High School. The daunting duo drew notice from BYU football coach Kalani Sitake. Both twins committed to play for BYU in June 2016.
The plan started to fall apart. Argust said during Nathan’s junior year of high school, he started deprioritizing school, and his grades suffered. He was held out of football games because of missed classes.
Sitake came to an Olympus game and told Argust he didn’t even need to see Nathan play football again. He already knew how good he was. As long as Nathan could graduate with the required credits, Sitake wanted him. But by then, it was too late. Nathan couldn’t make up for his lost time and had to get his GED. That meant he wasn’t eligible for Division 1 football, so he began his career at the JUCO level at Snow College in Utah. Cameron started his career at Alabama, the defending national champions.
“He went to Alabama when he was 18, we were together for 18 years,” Nathan said. “It was tough when he left…I barely got to see him because he’s doing his football thing too, but we just got that connection where itdon’t matter how far he is, we’re going to always have that connection together.”
The twins who once fought over which one got the extra cookie were 1,700 miles apart and in completely different football worlds.
“Watching his brother was hard (for Nathan), even though, don’t get me wrong, he is his biggest fan,” Argust said. “But it was hard, in the very beginning, to watch his brother go on to Alabama when he had to go play at junior college.”
Nathan didn’t grow bitter, he decided to better himself.
“I think honestly, I think it was part of what helped Nate kind of get his act together, because he could see the potential,” Allred said. “There really is very little gap between Cam’s athleticism and Nate’s athleticism.”
Nathan Latu has five sacks in Oklahoma State’s last five games heading into a 6 p.m. game against South Alabama Saturday in Stillwater. (Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman / USA TODAY Network)
Aiming for sack every game
At Snow, Nathan applied himself academically and made the Dean’s list his first semester. He took extra credits and graduated early with a business degree, not one of the general studies degrees a lot of athletes take.
“I’m so proud of where he is right now because he worked, but he had to go a harder route,” Argust said.
In 2021, Nathan came to OSU expecting to dominate. He had led Snow with 2 ½ sacks, two forced fumbles and four quarterback hurries in five games the previous season and possessed the athletic ability to compete in the Big 12.
In his first season with the Cowboys, he appeared in seven games and recorded only one tackle all season.
“It makes you realize you always got something to work on,” Latu said. “I thought I came in ready, but I was far from it. I was learning from people like (former OSU defensive linemen) Tyler Lacy and Brock Martin. Veterans and even the coaches helped turn me into a leader, helped this team come with me instead of me being on top.”
Latu changed a selfish mentality to a team-first mentality. And as veterans in front of him graduated and transferred, Latu’s window of opportunity opened. He logged a sack in OSU’s final three games last season and through the first two games this year has added two more. He is aiming for a sack a game, a number he feels will appeal to NFL teams.
OSU defensive coordinator Bryan Nardo called Nathan unblockable when he wants to be. And the thing about Latu, Nardo remarked, is he always wants to be.
“He plays hard, he is driven, he is a kid who you just have to understand wants the best for this football team,” Nardo said. “He wants to be his best for us and he wants to succeed, he is very driven to succeed.”
That’s quite the review for a player who was held out from games in high school and struggled to make an immediate impact at the Division I level.
“I look at it as just thanking God for the process that he took me through,” Latu said. “Everything I went through is for a reason. I couldn’t see it at the time, but I bought into this team, and at the end of the day, if I didn’t go through that I wouldn’t be the man I am today.”