At every stop in his football career, a cloud seems to hang over Alex DeHayward. Fortunately for DeHayward, he is resilient.
Someone with thinner skin might not be able to handle all the curves thrown DeHayward's way since 1984, his junior year at El Camino Real High. Currently he is a senior defensive lineman at Cal State Northridge, marking his first season in uniform since 1988.
In addition to losing out on scholarships to USC and Central State (Ohio), DeHayward, 24, has been accused of playing high school football as a fifth-year senior and transferring to Montclair Prep illegally and taking part in a phony housing arrangement.
Exasperated, DeHayward shakes his head when he hears the allegations. But he sidesteps explaining details of his high school career.
Patiently, he explains that he played two seasons at Pioneer High in Whittier, one season at El Camino Real and one season at Montclair Prep. But he fails to mention that he attended high school for five years.
Transcripts made public in 1990 by El Camino Real assistant principal Don Thomas indicate that DeHayward broke California Interscholastic Federation rules by playing football at Montclair Prep during his fifth year of high school.
"I could have sued ECR because they released my transcripts to the media," DeHayward said.
As for the housing scheme, DeHayward admits he never lived on campus, contrary to the claims of Montclair Prep coaches and administrators who based DeHayward's eligibility on an on-campus boarding school arrangement.
Instead, he lived in a Van Nuys apartment. His parents had separated. His mother lived in Woodland Hills and his father lived in Long Beach.
"I never really lived on school grounds," DeHayward said. "I lived on my own. My father paid the rent."
The allegations are not news to DeHayward and he understands why they spread.
"They were making up a lot of stories about me because I went to Montclair Prep from ECR," he said.
There was no question about DeHayward's lack of eligibility at USC in the fall of 1986 after he had signed a letter of intent. Rather than sit out a season as a Proposition 48 casualty, he went to Taft College.
Early in the season, he suffered a knee injury that required surgery and ended his season prematurely.
After sitting out the 1987 season, he transferred to Ventura College and played in '88, catching the eye of Central State coaches who recruited him. DeHayward arrived in time for spring drills but was overcome by pneumonia.
"They flew me home," DeHayward said. "They thought I'd have to have ear surgery."
Antibiotics and four weeks of bed rest restored DeHayward to health, but his career at Central State was over. By the time he recovered, summer school had started. Without summer school credits, he was ineligible for the fall season.
DeHayward saw no options--at any Division I school he would have to sit out a year.
"I thought all the schools around here were Division I," he said. "And I didn't want to leave the area to play Division II. That's why I didn't come to CSUN earlier."
Convinced that his playing days were over, he got a job as a security guard for King T, a rap artist.
He saw concerts in dozens of cities and on rare occasions he had to step in and protect King T from overzealous fans.
Although he enjoyed his job, DeHayward missed football. He attended several USC games to watch his cousin, Michael Jones, play and last spring he watched a CSUN spring football practice with former Montclair Prep teammate Eric Treibatch.
In a discussion with Hayward, Northridge Coach Bob Burt realized that DeHayward still had one year of eligibility remaining under Division II rules.
DeHayward was excited but skeptical.
"I didn't want to get my hopes up in case I didn't have enough units (to transfer)," he said.
So DeHayward gathered all of his transcripts and waited to be accepted at Northridge, but while he waited, he did not work out.
Consequently, the 6-foot-6 DeHayward weighed 315 pounds when he reported for fall drills six weeks ago.
"The reality (that I would be able to play) didn't hit me until the first day of camp," DeHayward said. "I thank God for the chance. Now my job is to get in shape to show coach."
The excess pounds and a left knee sprain suffered on the fourth day of practice slowed his progress.
"He's got some ability," Burt said. "He was highly touted and talented a few years ago. I've seen some flashes of the old coming back."
In the last four weeks, DeHayward has lost 15 pounds and increased his playing time for the Matadors (2-1). He has made five solo tackles and 10 overall.
If anything, DeHayward is persevering. "I grew up fast," he said.