Colorful and Daring, on Football Field and Off : It’s Henley’s Mission at UCLA to Inject Some Life Into Almost Everything

Times Staff Writer

Darryl Henley does not wear his jewelry when he plays football for UCLA.

That is his golden rule.

Off comes the gold chain from around his neck, followed by the gold watch from his wrist, the tiny cross of gold from his pierced left earlobe, and finally the gold pinky ring from his left hand.

What is the meaning of all this? What is he, a cornerback or the karat king?


Actually, Henley says that his accessories only mirror what he is really like way down deep. Inside the chest of this 165-pound sophomore beats the heart of a rare Bruin--a true personality.

“My jewelry reflects me as a person,” Henley said. “Neat and together.”

Until last Saturday, such words would not have been associated with the Bruins, who had been playing about as ugly and apart as they could.

Henley glanced down at his feet. They were gracefully adorned in white leather loafers. No socks, of course.


“These are my Italian sweet shoes,” he said before snapping shut his black leather briefcase that matched his black leather belt.

So, Darryl, know who Louis Vuitton is?

“Yeah, my brother,” said Henley, whose real brother, Thomas, is a starting wide receiver at Stanford.

There are probably others like Henley on the Bruin team, individuals yearning to be free but who are doomed to living out their college football careers in a program that considers beige colorful.

Henley, however, seems to have escaped the stamp, which should not be considered unusual, since escaping is what Darryl Henley is all about on the football field.

Just last Saturday, it was Henley who got the Bruins off and running when he recovered a fumble in mid-air, dodged a number of Arizona tacklers and ran 54 yards for a touchdown in UCLA’s 32-25 upset victory.

Henley said that once he got his hands on the fumble, a touchdown was assured.

“If Carl Lewis had come out of the stands, he couldn’t have caught me,” he said.


At UCLA, football players are coached not to be quite so outspoken. Bruin voice boxes are supposed to hibernate all week.

But somewhere along the way, Henley decided he would do it all. Besides talking, he would also play cornerback, and run back punts and kickoffs.

Henley regards this as a fine job, as long as he can avoid having his helmet handed to him with his head still inside.

So far, Henley has kept a good head on his shoulders. He has averaged 22.8 yards in 12 kickoff returns, and his 274 total yards are the most by a Bruin in four years.

Henley likes returning punts even more than kickoffs, although he hasn’t been quite so successful with them. His best was a 36-yard return against San Diego State that set up a field goal.

But, please, watch what you call his work on the special teams.

Not kamikaze,” he said. “That means you die in the end. I want to live. All the time.”

Henley, a political science major, knows all about the politics of kick returning, and to him it is surely a science. Sometimes, though, it is more of a lab experiment run amok.


Take, for example, Henley’s first three punt returns last Saturday, notable only for the fact that he did not become a statistic:

--On the first punt, Henley signaled a fair catch at the Bruin 33. “Only thing I could do, but I hate to fair-catch. Anybody can do that.”

--On the second, he did not signal for a fair catch, but probably should have. He fielded the punt at the UCLA 17 and was tackled at the 17. “I got nailed,” he said.

--On the third, Henley chose again to disdain the fair catch and again was hit immediately, at the Bruin 39. “I got crushed on that one, too,” he said.

“Now I’m 0 for 3, but I thought that somebody had to do something to get us started,” Henley said.

Henley did say, though, that it seemed he had even more company than usual. “It was like somebody had mailed open invitations to kill me and everybody showed up at the party,” he said.

Among other things, Henley has been saying all season that one day he will break a punt return and run it back for a touchdown, but Saturday was not the day. He had to settle for the one touchdown, five tackles, a pass broken up and four kickoff returns for 75 yards.

It was a pretty good, but not a spectacular, day, despite his touchdown run with the fumble.

Still, Henley said, in his line of work, attitude is very important.

“You can’t get down on yourself,” he said. “I know I sometimes made some bad decisions and I expected Coach (Terry) Donahue to rip me on the sidelines. All I know is that a lot of what I do is judgment. It’s do or die, for the team and for me.

“I love being in so many positions to influence the outcome of the game by what I do. I look forward to busting one. If something doesn’t happen, it bothers me. I’m confident, I’m really confident that one of those times that I get the ball, I’m going to do something really big.”

That something big could possibly come from someone so small seems unusual. After all, Henley’s jewelry probably weighs as much as he does.

The thing about Darryl Henley, though, is that he not only plays a good game, he also talks one. At UCLA, that’s a rarity.

Bruin Notes The Bruins, 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the conference, will play their first Pacific 10 road game Saturday when they meet Cal at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley. UCLA has won 14 consecutive games against Cal and 31 of the last 35. The last time Cal won in Berkeley was in 1968, when Bruin quarterback Matt Stevens was 2. . . . Joe Kapp’s Bears are 1-2 in the Pac-10 and 1-4 overall, but their only victory was a 31-21 decision over Washington State, which has defeated USC and tied Arizona State.