Devin Lucien is a lot of things, but understated is not one of them.
As No. 7 UCLA preps this week for the 2014 season opener at Virginia, Lucien is debuting a new hairstyle. His wild, curly, blonde-topped mohawk illustrates that point perfectly.
"Swag, right?" he said, Tuesday morning.
Swagger is also something Lucien isn’t lacking.
The hair is somewhat symbolic, he said. The crazy hair represents the crazy plays he’s about to make on the football field. Lucien, the redshirt junior receiver, is holding nothing back this season.
"You can’t really put no words on it," Lucien said. "Because people don’t understand what’s about to happen with Devin Lucien on this field."
Lucien probably has been the most entertaining person in Westwood, ever since last spring when he took reporters aside to tell them that he was going to win a starting position. He’s been humbled, benched, injured; and now he’s a starter, one who finally has learned to hold back.
But this time it’s different.
He didn’t realize it two weeks ago, but that’s when things changed. His mother, Trina Matthews, was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer. Suddenly, the season – and his hair – took on an entirely different meaning.
"That’s another reason for the new ‘do – it’s really about to go down," he said. "This season is dedicated to my moms."
Bursting with even more passion and excitement than usual, his voice starts to give way to the emotion of the situation. It’s only been about a week since he’s known, but she’s known for a bit longer.
"She didn’t tell me during camp because she didn’t want to mess up my head," Lucien said. "It kind of made me mad, but at the same time, I understood."
But there’s still a lot that he doesn’t understand.
"My mom, she’s a soldier, but my mom has been going through so much these past few years," he said. "There’s just so much going on with her that I’m kind of scared that she doesn’t have it spiritually right now."
Matthews likely will undergo a double mastectomy and will receive chemotherapy through the season. Chemo, unfortunately, will keep her from attending games.
This Saturday, Lucien will play for the first time without his mom in the stands.
"My mom has been at every single game since I was five and a half years old," he said. "I’m her only son, it’s always been just me and my mom, my whole life."
He can’t quite verbalize his feelings or the feelings he anticipates having Saturday. It’s odd for him, as emotions typically are something Lucien embraces. His inability to hold anything back – both on the field and off – is all thanks to his mom.
"She speaks it real," he said. "Everything is 100 percent from her heart. You don’t got to really think about what you’ve got to say when it’s coming from your heart and people have got to respect it. That’s how my mom is."
It’s Devin and Trina against the world — determined on the football field, and equally determined to defeat breast cancer.