SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — At the start of spring practice a few months ago, UCLA wide receiver Devin Lucien introduced himself to a group of reporters standing on the sidelines of Spaulding Field.
He shook each hand and introduced himself as a starting wide receiver.
“I’m competing for a starting spot. Period,” Lucien said.
Much like a politician, Lucien began campaigning for himself.
Lucien had one of the hottest starts to the 2012 season. In five games, he caught 10 passes for 188 yards and his ability to catch the deep ball and make the highlight-reel plays was exciting to watch.
But his season ended prematurely when he suffered a broken collarbone at Colorado. And it devastated the former Crespi standout.
“I remember just seeing him in the locker room at halftime just crying. It was hard for me to look at him like that,” said his roommate and fellow receiver Shaquelle Evans. “I said when you come back, just come back more hungry and ready to play.”
Lucien took his roommate’s advice. He came back in the spring, brazen in his demeanor and his play and caught the eye of the coaches.
But he also caught the eye of teammates, and not in the right way.
“I think that me doing that interview really created tension with Jordan (Payton). And I didn’t like that at all because Jordan has been my friend since high school,” Lucien said. “You could just tell that something was just a little bit off.”
Soon enough, something was a little off with his play as well.
“I think focusing on that made me try to impress people so much that I realized that I wasn’t doing as well as I could have,” Lucien said.
Lucien is one of the most passionate and fiery competitors on that field. His passion for the game is undeniable and he has a tendency to wear his heart on his sleeve, at time letting his emotions get the best of him, which at times has been his downfall on the field.
“Every day it seems like he goes up and makes a really fun, exciting, thrilling, acrobatic catch,” Mora said. “I think what we’re looking for out of Devin is consistency. The highlight-reel catches are great but they have to be accompanied by consistent play.”
It was his Evans that was able to get through to Lucien.
“He’d let me know about myself,” Lucien said. “He’d tell me, ‘Devin, the reason you’re not doing what it is that you want to do is because you’re inconsistent.’ Learning stuff like that from him has helped me out a lot.”
“He thought making the spectacular catches was the only thing to football,” Evans said. “I had to let him know, you’ve got to block, you’ve got to be consistent in everything you do, you’ve got to know the plays. If you don’t know the plays, they can’t play you no matter what kind of catches you make.”
As the spring progressed, Lucien realized that his spot, starting or off the bench, was safe. He was going to play no matter what and his campaign wasn’t worth damaging relationships with his teammates.
“I sent (Payton) a text message a few days later and said I didn’t mean anything personal by it,” Lucien said. “I think focusing on that made me try to impress people so much that I realized that I wasn’t doing as well as I could have.”
Lucien’s head is now back where it belongs – with the team.
“I’m always going to believe in my confidence and my confidence to play,” Lucien said. “But I’m not going to be so aggressively doing it.”