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UCLA football shines bright at fan-filled Friday Night Lights showcase

Senior wide receiver Logan Loya (right) tracks the ball into his hands as freshman defensive back Kanye Clark (left) looks on. The pair opened the festivities at UCLA football’s Friday Night Lights practice. (Michael Gallagher/Daily Bruin)

By Felicia Keller

April 22, 2024 5:45 p.m.

The voice of UCLA football defensive analyst Shea Pitts – amplified by a microphone – echoed about a brimming Wasserman Football Center.

Coach DeShaun Foster and the Bruins’ Friday Night Lights practice – a showcase to conclude week three of spring camp – brought in hundreds of recruits, donors and fans alike.

People filled the Wasserman entrance, music blared across the field and children played on the field. A screen set up on one end of the field featured closeup action shots, donors sat above the field looking out at the practice and fans watched from the parking lot overlooking the field.

“I was almost overwhelmed with how many people were out there,” Foster said. “It was amazing. So I just want to keep this going.”

Senior wide receiver Logan Loya started the show with a reaching touchdown catch on a deep pass from redshirt junior quarterback Ethan Garbers.

The offense erupted on the sideline, storming the field and Loya.

And the practice had much more in store, from position drills to special teams practice to a defense vs. offense showdown, there was plenty in store for the fans to watch. Loya’s grab was just the beginning.

Pitts – a UCLA linebacker from 2017-2022 – commentated throughout, switching among play-by-play, player introductions, hype-up and interviews.

Senior defensive lineman and projected first-round draft pick Laiatu Latu spoke with Pitts, while offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and defensive coordinator Ikaika Malloe discussed the energy of the team across spring practice.

“It gave them a game feel being interviewed after making a play, hearing an offensive coordinator talk during the practice, so I think it was trying to give them a game atmosphere,” Foster said. “Making it fun for the fans, for the guys, and the players like it just as much as the fans do.”

Foster added that he was excited about how the festivities turned out – the only missing element from his original vision was a Ferris wheel.

Hours before practice began, the team received its would-be matchups for the night.

“It was just exciting to start off the meeting in the morning showing the matchups” Foster said. “I just want to get guys that want to come out here and compete. … This is exciting that the guys are actually trying to take it to that level.”

The night ended with a final one-on-one matchup. Not between players, but coaches.

Safeties coach Brian Norwood and tight ends coach Jerry Neuheisel each stepped up to represent their respective sides of the ball.

An intense battle followed, with a winner emerging amid controversy.

A battle of rock, paper, scissors, that is.

“As of right now, Coach Norwood is the champ,” Foster said. “He beat Jerry two out of three. Jerry’s going to say that the second rock, paper, scissors was a little delayed, that tied it up 1-1. Jerry won the first one, and then Norwood brought it home.”

The result meant two wins for the defense on the day, as they also won the head-to-head in practice.

With one special practice in the books, Foster’s attention is turning to Saturday’s Spring Showcase at the Rose Bowl, which the first-year head coach said will top Friday night’s events.

“It looks fun, right?” Foster said. “And that’s what they’re doing, they’re having fun playing football, so I just want to keep this going. This looks like something that people want to be involved in and if we win this city over, I think we can do really well.”

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Felicia Keller
Keller is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the men’s soccer, swim and dive, women’s water polo, and softball beats. She was previously a contributor on the swim and dive and women’s water polo beats and a contributor in the News and Photo sections. She is also a second-year sociology student.
Keller is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the men’s soccer, swim and dive, women’s water polo, and softball beats. She was previously a contributor on the swim and dive and women’s water polo beats and a contributor in the News and Photo sections. She is also a second-year sociology student.
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