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Farmer's Versatility Comes With Catch

UCLA: Multitalented receiver spikes Washington State's season with a big day and clutch touchdown reception.


His name is Danny Farmer, and at 19, he is already a man for all seasons. In his future, there is an Olympic volleyball medal, a shot at big-time college basketball, even a spot on a pro football roster.

Perhaps, all of the above.

Right now, he is playing wide receiver for UCLA's football team, and his five catches for 121 yards and a touchdown helped greatly in the Bruins' 38-14 dismantling of Washington State at the Rose Bowl on Saturday.

Little did the Cougars know, as they lined up on defense midway through the third quarter, trailing by 21-7 but still with a decent chance to come back, run their record to 6-3 and stay in great position for some postseason fun, that a volleyball player was about to spike their season.

Farmer, a lanky 6 feet 4, sped down the field from the Cougar 38, then broke right over the middle. As he was doing that, the Bruins were running one of their razzle-dazzle plays, with quarterback Cade McNown handing to running back Skip Hicks, who headed left and handed to wide receiver Jim McElroy, coming back around to the right.

As it turned out, the backfield razzle-dazzle fooled nobody, because once McElroy planted to pass, two Washington State defenders were stride for stride with Farmer.

"I told McElroy to just throw it up there and I'd catch it," Farmer said. "But then, I saw the two guys there and I figured no chance."

But there suddenly was a chance, when the nearest defender didn't turn his head in time to pick up the arrival of the ball and Farmer was able to step inside of him and cradle the ball at the goal line.

Touchdown, Farmer. A 28-7 Bruin lead. No comebacks likely here, since Jake Plummer was off playing Cal. And Washington State was on its way to a 5-4 record and, likely, another long, cold, bowl-less winter in Pullman.

It was enough to make Karch Kiraly proud.

As was the 52-yard catch Farmer made early in the second quarter, just when UCLA appeared to be struggling a bit, that set up a touchdown two plays later for a 14-7 lead.

Farmer came to UCLA as an all-sport star from Loyola High. He also came with no scholarship, although he has one now. At Loyola, he played volleyball, football and basketball, and liked volleyball so much that, when the one major football power offering him a scholarship turned out to be Cal, he turned it down because Cal has only club volleyball.

Farmer is a freshman in football eligibility, but a sophomore in volleyball, since he competed for the Bruins as a middle hitter last spring and earned a starting spot in early February. His first season as a football Bruin last fall consisted of playing on the scout team, which exists for the most part to provide moving blocking dummies for the real players.

This season, he got off to an impressive start by making an 88-yard touchdown catch against Tennessee. Now, after nine games, he is the Bruins' leading receiver with 23 catches for 397 yards and two touchdowns. Those aren't exactly Jerry Rice numbers, but then, Jerry Rice probably thinks a middle hitter is a boxer who goes to the body a lot.

Farmer said he tries not to talk about which sport is his favorite, but when pressed a bit, he will whisper the truth.

"Basketball, that's my best one," he said, adding that, while he has no current intentions of showing up on Steve Lavin's doorstep, he might ponder that sort of visit about this time next year.

If that happens, it would not be the first from the Farmer family on a Bruin basketball team. His father, George, played on the 1970 national title team and also played seven years in the NFL as a receiver with the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions. Matter of fact, the genes run really deep. Danny's grandfather, Steve Miletich, played basketball at USC, and his uncle, Dave Farmer, played football at USC and in the pros for Tampa Bay and Atlanta.

So, the Bruins clearly have a star in the making. All that needs to be decided is which sport. Or maybe how many.

Right now, Bob Toledo, the football coach, has to be thrilled to have this volleyball player out on loan to him. If pressed, Toledo would probably say he kind of digs it.

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