The Final Stretch
The Daily Bruin tells the stories of different UCLA men’s volleyball players throughout the week as the team begins postseason play on Saturday.
Brandon Choe / Daily Bruin senior staff
Redshirt junior middle blocker Clayton Paullin committed to BYU, spending his first two months there before transferring to UCLA. Now as a Bruin, he has found a place to call home.
BY CHRIS KALRA
The volleyball player sits coolly on the ledge outside Acosta Athletic Training Complex. Staring into the distance, his eyes catch the many student passersby traipsing up and down Bruin Walk on this evening.
Here, there are many people of all walks of life. And here is a freedom of sorts he was without not too long ago.
But most importantly, here – at UCLA – he fits in.
Clayton Paullin, a redshirt junior UCLA men’s volleyball player, didn’t originally commit to the Bruin blue and gold.
Instead, the Southern California native followed his Mormon faith and his parents’ lineage to Brigham Young University. Both his parents and sister were BYU graduates – just as Paullin planned to be.
But plans can have a funny way of changing. He arrived at college as many freshmen do: excited and ready for new opportunities.
“I think he was just trying to find his place and make friends like a normal kid would,” said Taylor Sander, Paullin’s former teammate at BYU.
“(BYU) was just a little tough for me. It was far from home. (And) it’s really, really different. … I knew that I had to come back to Southern California.”
Paullin, a “funny, interesting kid” as Sander and his former BYU roommate and teammate Josue Rivera describe him, quickly made friends. He meshed well with his teammates, spending much of his time with them.
Yet, he didn’t seem to feel comfortable. This place – it was different.
“(BYU’s) definitely different than any other school because of the (Latter Day Saints) population and it’s a Mormon school,” Sander said. “Some places aren’t right for people.”
For Paullin, who grew up in Manhattan Beach, it was a “culture shock,” said Paullin’s father, Craig Paullin.
Clayton Paullin had always taken a loose interpretation on religion, just as his parents did. At his new school, though, his beliefs weren’t shared by many.
“(My parents) never taught me gospel doctrine. It was more of being a good person, helping people as much as they could,” Paullin said. “I never really took religion literally. But when I got to BYU, people take it really seriously there.”
In school, religion came to the forefront of life.
Science books mentioned God. Almost everyone adhered to the strict religion-based student code – such as no alcohol consumption, following dress and grooming standards and living “a chaste and virtuous life.”
“I told (my dad) that I wanted to leave. And he said he was alright with it, and he totally supported me…even at the game, he’ll be wearing a UCLA cap even though he graduated BYU.”
And there was the ever-present atmosphere of spirituality.
“(BYU’s) very homogenous. Everybody kind of looks at things the same way (and) it’s a church school,” Craig Paullin said. “Some people love it … and for some people … it’s too much homogeneity, it’s too much spirituality all at once.”
This much dawned on Clayton Paullin quickly. What had been a great school for many members of his family was not for him.
Though he remained loyal to his faith, he wanted a stronger balance between his religious devotion and his personal life.
So just two months into his BYU experience, Paullin chose to leave.
“I just wanted my freedom,” he said. “I just wanted to feel like I was doing my own thing.”
When Clayton Paullin first told his father of the decision, Craig Paullin knew something more was up.
Concerned, he flew to BYU; he wanted to make sure his son was making an informed decision.
At one point in their time together, the two took a long hike up a mountain behind BYU’s campus. The introspective trek gave the father and son an opportunity to reason.
“We got a chance to really talk about things and what (Clayton) wanted out of life,” Craig Paullin said. “It kind of helped me think he had his head screwed on straight, he knew what he wanted to do.”
“I just generally feel happy I guess; I don’t know, you just feel it. I was like, ‘(BYU) isn’t (for me). I don’t really like it here.”
Clayton Paullin did indeed know what he wanted.
He wanted to be back home.
Last Saturday. UCLA v. BYU. First set. Set point Bruins.
Fittingly, Paullin, three years removed from transferring schools to UCLA, steps to the line to serve. This one play is his only game action in UCLA’s upset home win over BYU.
Per his coach John Speraw’s instructions, he float serves the ball to his former teammate Sander. Thrown off, the Cougars dropped the point, and the set.
Much later that night, long after the game’s end, Paullin sits inside the Acosta Training Complex. One of his teammates’ parents comes over to him and jokingly congratulates him on his short-lived play – coming off the bench cold for a critical point is no easy task.
Now as a Bruin, Paullin has been accepted, even if he does play sparingly.
“The volleyball team – once you really get into the family, you feel pretty comfortable,” said teammate and redshirt senior opposite hitter Jonathan Bridgeman.
“So I think (UCLA) has become a home for him.”