Harwell takes the fifth and is running with it
UCLA’s Brigham Harwell had finally received the telephone call he’d waited for all last winter. A fifth year of eligibility to play football had been granted.
Which caused the big defensive tackle to do something a little out of character.
“I started crying,” Harwell said.
The Harwell who returned for a second senior season is acting a little different these days. He was always outgoing and quick with humor. But his personality leaned more toward sitting on a curb and making fun of the parade as it passed.
These days, Harwell is trying to lead it.
When the Bruins were humiliated by Brigham Young, 59-0, last month, it was Harwell who called a players-only meeting. Teammates say the divisions that existed between players on offense and defense were hashed out that day.
Harwell has done a small makeover on himself, the result of a 2007 season that was supposed to be a pinnacle but bottomed out fast. Harwell injured a knee in the second game and could only watch as the Bruins unraveled, finishing 6-7.
“Oh my gosh, when you don’t play football for a year, you start thinking about everything,” Harwell said. “I had never thought about, ‘What am I going to do without football?’ So when I got my year back, I swore I wasn’t going to take it for granted.”
Harwell hasn’t ditched his jovial side altogether. On Wednesdays, when UCLA players eat barbecue after practice, he comes into the media room and banters with reporters while chomping on chicken and ribs.
“The guy can be a clown,” defensive end Korey Bosworth said, smiling. “He always makes up something just so he gets out of things. But he has always come through.”
Harwell laughed at that, and said, “Yeah, we’ll have a defensive line meeting and I’ll try to say I have class or something just to try to duck it. But at the end of the day, it’s a privilege to be out here.”
Harwell has expressed that to teammates more than once. The change was noticeable.
“It’s maturity,” defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker said. “He still has a little of the fun-loving guy in him. But he has matured to know there is a right place and a right time for that. With him getting hurt and not sure he was going to get the year back, maybe it made him respect the game a little more.”
Harwell’s determination to be a leader accelerated when tight end Logan Paulsen and wide receiver Marcus Everett, both seniors, suffered injuries in the season opener.
“I’m the old man on this team,” Harwell said. “I have experienced home games, road games, wins, losses. I can let the young guys know that everything will be OK.”
Harwell’s status, having been a starter since his sophomore season, makes it easy for others to listen to him.
“I think Brigham has developed a more vocal side of his personality,” Coach Rick Neuheisel said. “I don’t think that was in him when he got to college. He speaks from the heart and the other kids listen. I think he realized at this point in his life and career that he needs to be that guy.”
Like Harwell, Everett missed a large chunk of the 2007 season because of an injury. His was to an ankle. Everett received a fifth year of eligibility, but dislocated the big toe on his right foot in the season opener and hasn’t played since.
Everett did not make the trip to Oregon, and Neuheisel said his return was “more likely” next week.
“I feel good, better than I have since before the opener,” Everett said. “You don’t realize that the big toe is such a big part of your everyday life until you hurt it.
“I think what happened last season has allowed me to handle this situation a little better. I think I’m more positive about things.”
Said Everett: “I had a catch in the first game, so at least I caught one.”
Go beyond the scoreboard
Get the latest on L.A.'s teams in the daily Sports Report newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.