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It wasn’t simply site visitors that stalled Azizi Hearn’s journey from Oceanside to Westwood.
The UCLA defensive again took the lengthy highway up the California coast, looping by way of Tucson, Ariz., and Laramie, Wyo., and turning into the switch portal twice. 5 years after strolling on to his first faculty staff, the San Diego-area product is completely satisfied to say he’s arrived to his final vacation spot.
“That is house for me,” Hearn stated Wednesday after observe at Spaulding Discipline on UCLA’s campus.
Lower than a month into his UCLA profession, the graduate switch has emerged because the staff’s fifth defensive again, leaping in with the highest unit because the slot nook. Redshirt senior Stephan Blaylock stated final week that Hearn was an early standout in spring camp as a result of he grabbed two interceptions within the first two weeks. He had one other choose throughout one-on-one drills.
Hearn is anticipated to make an on the spot affect at UCLA. That’s the usual he set for himself whereas at Wyoming, the place he performed in 32 straight video games in three years. He began all 13 video games final yr with 30 tackles and 5 move breakups because the Cowboys went 7-6 and completed the season with a victory within the Idaho Potato Bowl.
The Oceanside native went to Wyoming after two years at Arizona, the place he started as a walk-on in 2017 beneath Wealthy Rodriguez. He cracked the rotation the next yr, which was Kevin Sumlin’s first season in Tucson, and rose to the beginning function by the ultimate three video games, ending with 26 tackles and a fumble restoration for a landing.
Hearn admitted he had early goals of enjoying at UCLA. It felt like a hometown faculty for the San Diego-area product, however the three-time staff captain at Oceanside Excessive by no means broke into the recruiting highlight. Having to start as a walk-on isn’t removed from Hearn’s thoughts.
“That also fuels me to at the present time, actually,” he stated. “I nonetheless form of have a chip on my shoulder.”
Hearn’s ample faculty expertise makes him a prepared chief for a protection adjusting to four new assistant coaches, together with first-year defensive coordinator Bill McGovern. Hearn linked rapidly with veterans Blaylock and Kenny Churchwell, who’re each of their fifth years at UCLA, and youthful gamers comparable to sophomore Devin Kirkwood.
“He’s like a giant brother to me,” Kirkwood advised reporters final week. “He talks to me on a regular basis. He helps me keep locked in.”
Hearn stated he selected UCLA after Wyoming as a result of it supplied him a spot to “develop as a person and as a participant.” Robust relationships with former UCLA gamers and fellow San Diego prospects comparable to Kyle Philips and Jordan Genmark-Heath contributed to the selection. They each spoke extremely of their experiences as Bruins and seeing how the college ready them for potential NFL careers solely intrigued Hearn extra as he goals of the following cease in his journey.
“To see them put themselves in that place, it’s simply thrilling,” Hearn stated. “And I can’t wait to satisfy them up there.”