‘THE SCHEDULE IS EASIER IN WESTWOOD’ BY SCOTT OSTLER, LA TIMES, AUG. 30, 1977 — You’ll have to excuse UCLA’s Bryce Adkins if he doesn’t appear to be working himself into football’s customary foam-at-the-mouth frenzy for games and workouts. It’s not that Adkins, candidate for a starting guard spot, isn’t serious or enthusiastic. It’s just that, at age 27, he’s five years older than any other Bruin and nine years older than some.
And after you’ve spent a couple years blowing up bridges and bunkers in Vietnam, you learn to prepare yourself for battle in quieter ways. “I get up for the games,” he said. “I’m all for that [rah-rah] stuff, but when you’re older it’s a little harder to run around and jump up and down. You know how young people are when they get out of high school. I’m a little more reserved. There are others on the team who don’t run and jump around. But they can get up when they have to.”
On this particular day, Adkins was down. With the season opener (Houston, Sept. 12) less than three weeks away, he had pulled a calf muscle. A reserve and special teams member last year, Bryce was listed as the starting left guard this year.
“Now I’ll have to work my way back up,” he said glumly. It’s times like this when the guy they call Grandpa must be asking himself what he’s doing playing with these kids. “Sometimes I think that I should be doing something else, maybe, like working,” said the senior kinesiology major. “I’m at the age that I’ve got to make a decision on a career. But once I’m on the field, nothing else matters. I play football because I like the game.”
He played high school ball in Columbus, Ohio. But Ohio State coach Woody Hayes wasn’t shopping for 175-pound linemen. Nobody was. The Navy looked good. A recruiter talked Adkins into signing up for the Navy’s Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) training.
“They never told me how hard it was going to be,” Adkins said with a smile. UDT training is considered perhaps the toughest type of military training. In Adkins’ class there were 150 hand-picked men. Five weeks into the 20-week training, 124 had dropped out.
“The first four weeks is all physical training,” said Adkins. “You work up to a 16-mile run, on the beach in full combat uniform, and a five-mile swim.” Then comes Hell Week. “By then we were down to 50 guys. It was five days and five nights with no sleep. You were running, swimming or paddling all the time. It’s all harassment. They try to make you quit. I almost quit a couple days into Hell Week. By the third day, you’re in a trance. You don’t even know what’s going on.”
Adkins’ active duty included two stops in Vietnam. “We went out on patrols. We blew up bunkers, bridges, canals, things like that. We were under fire a few times, but it’s not like going into a firefight. We’d rocket an area first to get the North Vietnamese out, then go in and clean out the ammo and supplies and blow the bunkers up.”
Back in the States, Adkins played two years of Special Services football, bulking up his 6-1 frame to 210 pounds (he’s 235 now). He left the Navy and played two seasons at Golden West College, where he was a JC All-American in ’74 and drew offers from UCLA, Cal and Nebraska.
Ohio State also expressed interest, but too late. Adkins red-shirted a year at UCLA, then played last year. He saw a lot of action against Ohio State in Columbus (a 10-10 tie). He said he is not considered a traitor back home. “My family and friends are just glad I’m playing.”
Adkins may be an old-timer and a war veteran, but the game means a lot to him. “I take football seriously,” he said. “At this level you have to take it seriously. I’m really worried about trying to come back [from the injury] for the Houston game. But no matter what happens, I’ll play this year. And no matter what, I’ve had a good time playing football. I’ve got a lot more out of it than most people have.”