Sports

UCLA's Sam Handler attends spring training with less hair

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Most UCLA football fans would say, "Who?" when asked to point out Sam Handler. That doesn't mean they haven't noticed him.

Handler, the walk-on receiver who had Fabio-like hair, was easy to spot. Those locks earned him the nickname "Sunshine."

He has been harder to pick out this spring.

Handler shed the hair for charity this past Christmas, donating it to Locks of Love, a nonprofit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged people younger than 21 who had long-term hair loss because of medical treatments.

It's an organization Handler became familiar with through his family.

Kelly Proch, his great aunt, died from breast cancer. Eric Handler, his uncle, is a cancer survivor.

"Breast cancer is something that stuck with me," Sam Handler said. "I became aware of Locks of Love and had a soft spot for it."

So when Handler "grew tired" of his long hair after the 2013 season, he knew what to do.

"It was sad to see my hair go, but it will help someone," Handler said.

Handler came to UCLA from Barrington (Ill.) High, where he had 45 receptions for 500 yards as a senior. He also played defensive back.

UCLA, he said, "was my dream school so I attacked it when it came to recruiting."

Handler went to one day camp each summer in high school and caught the attention of former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel. During his last visit before his senior year, Handler broke a finger and was sent to the hospital. Coaches were surprised when he returned later and asked to continue workouts.

He was rewarded with an invitation to walk on. Handler enrolled for the spring 2012 quarter "to get ahead on the incoming scholarship guys."

Handler appeared in one game in 2013, the season opener against Nevada.

Coach Jim Mora said: "After the game, around 2 a.m., I got a text from him saying, 'That made my day. My parents got to see me play. My brother saw me on TV. I haven't even taken a shower and there is no way I'm going to sleep.'"

Locks of Love may receive another donation from the Handler family. Handler's older brother, Gus, started 28 games at Colorado the last three seasons and is awaiting the NFL draft.

"He said he was going to do it, but he's still growing his hair out for football," Sam Handler said.

As for Sam Handler, he won't be giving up the name "Sunshine."

"I'm growing the hair out again," he said.

Johnson out

Cornerback John Johnson will miss the remainder of spring practice after aggravating a right shoulder injury.

Johnson left practice Thursday holding his arm after attempting to make a tackle. He had surgery on the shoulder last summer, which forced him to miss his freshman season.

Extra points

Devin Fuller, who missed the previous two practices with a sore back, returned Saturday and certainly looked healthy. Fuller went 60 yards for a touchdown on a reverse during a full-contact scrimmage. "I yelled, 'Go faster, it's a full-speed drill,'" offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. "Then I noticed he was running past everyone. He just glides." … Safety Tahaan Goodman had the play of the day Saturday. Nate Iese, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound Y-back, caught a short pass and was immediately dropped by Goodman.

chris.foster@latimes.com

Twitter: @cfosterlatimes

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