16 Apr 2022 | 15:46
LOS ANGELES – Azizi Hearn arrived at UCLA on a transfer from Wyoming about three weeks ago on Monday, the day before spring soccer practice begins.
On that Thursday, head coach Chip Kelly was surprised that Hearn had “three days as good as you can have”.
As spring practice draws to a close for the final two weeks, the Oceanside native has continued to impress his new teammates and coaches, some of whom have been enamored with him. He’s come in for prep practice, wants to know the defence, and is ready to break into many positions. He has intercepted many times. And when he transferred to graduate school, Hearn took on leadership roles for younger players even though he was still learning defensive jargon.
“Azizi is great,” said recipient Logan Loya. “I think he’s an outstanding player and I think he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with this year.”
More safety Stephan Blaylock: “Azizi, he’s stepping up.”
As for second-year cornerback Devin Kirkwood, although Hearn has different personalities, the two formed an immediate bond.
“I love him,” Kirkwood said. “He was like a big brother to me. He talks to me all the time. He helps me stay in shape. When I was exhausted and tired, he always checked on me to make sure I was calm. He was always there for me and I was always there for him.”
After serving as one of the defensive pillars for Wyoming for the past three seasons, Hearn is looking to make an immediate impact at UCLA and help add an extra player with the most passes per game. in last season’s Pac-12. He seems to be on track to compete for a starter spot, lining up with the first team in spring practice.
“That’s the standard I set for myself,” Hearn said after practicing this week.
Hearn scored 30 tackles last season at Wyoming and in 2020 leads the team with four clearances. But Wyoming is a long way from Oceanside High School, where Hearn has twice been awarded both Convention and Countywide honors and acted as both collector and returnee. Hearn’s leadership qualities started early, serving as a captain for three years in high school and being named MVP as a senior.
Hearn had dreamed of playing close to home at UCLA, but the journey was long. He had to go on to Arizona in 2017 and re-learn his first year before playing 12 games for the Wildcats in 2018. He then moved to Wyoming, where he developed into a solid player in high school and as a team leader.
“That still motivates me to this day,” Hearn said during a walk. “I’ve been through a lot since college. I still had to shoulder my role when I just entered a college game like that. ”
When Hearn decided to transfer for a second time, he was looking for a program that felt like home, where he would grow as a man and a player.
“Those are the two things that interest me,” Hearn said. “Everybody who’s hiring me and everyone I’ve talked to, all my questions revolve around those goals of mine. I chose UCLA for those reasons.”
During the three weeks he spent at Westwood, Hearn felt he had taken steps to achieve those two goals. He says he’s learning something new every day, with supportive coaches pulling him aside or spending time watching more movies with him to help him get on with the defensive formations. On the field, veterans Blaylock and Kenny Churchwell guided him.
Newly hired defensive coordinator Bill McGovern said he appreciated Hearn’s curiosity and flexibility.
“He’s carrying a heavy load,” said McGovern. “He’s in the nickel, the corner, the inside, the outside – he’s active all around but it’s a compliment to him and his ability and his preparation.”
Hearn is still a few months away from being able to see the field at the Rose Bowl. But it looks like he’s doing everything right so far. And he ended up moving back to Southern California.
“I love it,” Hearn said. “Honestly, this is home to me.”
Midfielder Dorian-Thompson Robinson has signed a Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) agreement with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports, the sports body announced on Thursday.
– Roc Nation Sports (@RocNationSports) April 14, 2022
Leaving UCLA players Greg Dulcich, Ethan Fernea, Quentin Lake and Otito Ogbonnia have been inducted into the 2022 National Football League and Hampshire University Honors Association.
Membership is awarded to college football players who maintain a 3.2 or better cumulative GPA throughout their college careers.