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September 11, 2013

UCLA trying to win with style

Hours before Devin Lucien runs through a tunnel Saturday in Lincoln, Neb., and touches his fresh, new adidas cleats on the green sod at Memorial Stadium, he'll sit inside his locker and ponder a few things.

He'll do the obvious, of course: Go over his goals for the game, the plays, the gameplan, the notes he's taken through the week.

But then he'll start a different ritual. One that he hopes puts him in rare air on UCLA's 100-or-so-man roster.

"My motivation is to look the best on the field," UCLA's sophomore wide receiver said. "Point blank. Period."

He'll lay out all his clothing. There's the undershirt with no sleeves on it ("to show our arms off," he said). There's the tape on the wrists, tucked into a fresh pair of adidas gloves. There's an arm band or two, which may or may not be worn on an arm or a calf. And then there's the visor, which, of course, is "definitely purely a style thing," he said.

"I feel like the better you look, the better you play," Lucien said. "And that's something I really believe in. That's why I try to look as best as I can before every game without doing too much."

Lucien isn't alone. UCLA's roster is full of players subscribing to the look-good-play-good motto.

They all have their own little tricks and intricacies. Some don't take it to the extent Lucien does with the pregame planning, but most make sure they look good for the camera.

"It's just like if you're stepping out on the town or something like that," sophomore quarterback Brett Hundley said. "If you look good, you feel good, and if you feel good, you play good. That's the motto we roll with around here."

Hundley knows the style game all too well. His debut of black sleeves and a visor two weeks ago sent Twitter and message boards into a tizzy. Why is he wearing that? What are the sleeves for? He looks like Anthony Barr.

"I switched up the swag a little bit," Hundley said with a laugh.

Added senior linebacker Barr: "He always tries to be like me, for whatever reason."

There is a line, however, that Jim Mora has drawn firmly on the uniform debate: Nothing too far out there is allowed.

"I let them do their own little swag things," Mora said. "The way they wear their towel, only a few guys can do it. They can put a little wristband here, and a little wristband on their knee, but we look the same. We're a team and the team that looks the same. My philosophy is, the team looks good when they all look the same. That's how you're supposed to wear your uniform and that's why they call it a uniform. A uniform means they look the same and that's how I feel."

Some players aren't as gifted at bending Mora's guidelines as the Barrs, the Hundleys or the Luciens on the Bruins squad. Freshman receiver Eldridge Massington, Lucien said, could use some help.

"We have to get Eldridge to stop wearing ankle braces and actually tape his ankles so he gets some swag," Lucien said.

Said Barr, who refused to name names: "There's some people that try to do too much. I wish they would keep it a little more simple, you know?"

But the fashion police do agree that one player generally stands out over the rest: senior wideout Shaquelle Evans.

Of course, depending on who you ask, he's behind a few people too.

"I'm probably first," Barr said.

"I'm the most swagged out," Lucien refuted. "You know me."


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