Watching the football BCS National Championship at the age of 7 or 8, UCLA track and field freshman thrower Braheme Days was fascinated by the spectacle of collegiate athletics. He knew what he wanted in his future.

Growing up, Days did not have an older brother or “uncle figure” to set an example for him.

He didn’t know why, but watching those college athletes on television inspired him to set a goal for himself. In a way, those figures were like the older brother or uncle figure he didn’t have, Days said.

His decision to follow in the footsteps of collegiate athletes helped prime his dedication to hard work and improvement in his sport, but Days always had a knack for diligence.

Before he even entered high school, Days zeroed in on throwing.

During the summer before his freshman year at Bridgeton High School in New Jersey, Days did not have a coach to seek advice from. Instead, he would watch film for hours on end, studying great high school throwers who were only two or three years older.

Tryouts would be held at the beginning of the year, prompting Days to spend his summer practicing feverishly, intent on making the cut.

Days made the team and was coached by Ray Wilks. Under Wilks, Days became a three-time national champion for shot put and earned eight All-American honors in the shot put and discus.

“(Wilks) taught me a lot of philosophies and trained me well. He always said that preparation prevents poor performance,” Days said.

Days came to UCLA boasting a reputation as the best national shot putter in high school. However, the No. 24 collegiate shot putter hasn’t been complacent.

“He’s a very bright kid. He’s a student of the sport and he watches video, he knows his history, and it shows with the results, ” said men’s track and field coach John Frazier. “One thing I’ll do is show him a video of past meets emphasizing technique; he’ll study it, come to practice and execute accordingly.”

Days continued to advance and now, according to Frazier, plays with more of a “chip on his shoulder” than in high school.

From the day he got to UCLA, Days knew he had his work cut out for him with the competition provided by redshirt sophomore thrower Nicholas Scarvelis. It was Days’ goal to get to Scarvelis’ level, and now that the two are close, Days’ competitive drive has never been greater.

“In practice, (Days) really gets the most out of the competition. I’ve been throwing consistently further and I’ve been throwing for a little bit longer. But that’s been pushing him to do well and he thrives off the competition very well,” Scarvelis said. “It’s done me good, but he gets more out of the competitive aspect.”

The competitive spirit runs deep between the two throwers, but their relationship runs even deeper.

This past summer, Days spent a week at Scarvelis’ home. The pair trained together before the start of the new school year, and they’ve traveled together to the track and field meets.

Scarvelis became a role model in Days’ life who continues to push him every day. Because of Scarvelis’ work ethic, Days said he is forced to improve and work harder than before.

“He’s like an older brother in the sense that every time I do something well, (Scarvelis is) right behind doing something better. He always keeps me on my toes,” Days said. “If he didn’t put in the hours and work hard, I could’ve been better than him and he could’ve been on the back burner. But because he’s such a competitor, he forces me to do better.”

The dynamic of the relationship pushes Days to work harder in anticipation for what Scarvelis will bring to each new practice and meet. The words of Wilks ring true here: Preparation prevents poor performance.

Days performed well thus far this season, including a first-place victory at the New Mexico Invitational and third-place finish at the most recent MPSF Indoor Championship.

“I’ve learned that you’re more inclined to do the things that the people around you are doing. If I’m going to college, playing sports and doing good things, then my younger brothers and sisters are inclined to do the same, and I think setting an example for them is pretty cool,” Days said.

As the oldest of seven children, Days, who wanted someone to look up to, wished to set the example for his siblings just as he had found inspiration in past collegiate athletes. Days said he hoped his siblings would follow in the same footsteps and replicate his success.

Days said he sees a similar ambition for excellence in his brother Shyheme Days.

Although Shyheme Days hasn’t exactly followed in his brother’s footsteps in sports, he’s forging his own success through academics.

“(Shyheme) got a 4.0 unweighted and I feel what he puts into the classroom is what I put into sports,” Braheme Days said.

It’s been a long journey ever since Days set his sights on college. He had always looked toward the athletes whom he respected for guidance, and now, Braheme is the one who sets the example.

Email Hyun at ahyun+@media.ucla.edu.