At last Danny Farmer confesses to what others have long known about him. "I'm addicted," he says, sitting in a UCLA campus courtyard, where winter sunshine filters through eucalyptus trees. "I've been doing it for four years, and now I don't even think about it anymore. I just keep going out and doing it."
Farmer craves year-round action. He's an All-Pac-10 wide receiver who mixes the crushing, year-round demands of big-time football with his January-to-May role as a starting quick hitter for the UCLA volleyball team, which he has helped win two national championships. The combination makes him one of the most accomplished two-sport college athletes in the country and also one sick puppy. Consider a typical winter day: Predawn football puke drills are followed by classes (as a history major with a 3.0 GPA, he's Pac-10 All-Academic too), volleyball practice and evening football passing drills. Yet even this regimen isn't sufficiently active for Farmer. "If I played one sport, I wouldn't be getting the most out of what I've been given," says Farmer. "Two sports really aren't enough."
Family and friends commiserate over his athletic dependence. "We worry that he overdoes things," says his mother, Christy.
"He treats college like he's still in high school," says Cade McNown, UCLA's quarterback the past four years. "Sometimes we have to save him from himself," says strength coach Mike Lynn.
During a recent volleyball match, Farmer seems about to expire on the floor of Pauley Pavilion. The Bruins, in pursuit of their 18th NCAA title in 30 years, have just lost a three-hour, five-game match to Long Beach State, in the process setting a UCLA record for consecutive losses in men's volleyball (four) that owes largely to the absence of All-America Adam Naeve (sprained ankle) and co-captain Fred Robins (flu). Farmer is sitting on the Pauley floor with mammoth ice bags strapped to the front and back of his right (hitting) shoulder, and with just plain bags under his blue eyes. His plan is to eat quickly, sleep about five hours and work out with his football teammates at 6:30 the next morning. The loss hasn't changed these plans; it has reinforced them. "Now, after this, I'm definitely going to the morning workout," Farmer says.
Later that night reason prevails. Bruins volleyball coach At Scates and Lynn conspire to perform an intervention on the addict, as they occasionally do. Both leave messages on Farmer's voice mail to this effect: Sleep in; rest. Farmer grudgingly complies.
"My body was happy," he says the next afternoon, "but I was pissed."
In truth Farmer isn't sick at all; he's just a 21-year-old with more toys than time and no off switch. One evening last December, when UCLA still was unbeaten in football and in contention for the national championship, the 6'4", 210-pound Farmer sat on a stool in a Mexican restaurant near campus. Everything moved. His feet churned furiously to some silent rhythm, his shoulders rolled from side to side like waves curling ashore, and his eyes flitted about like the red dot from a 13-year-old's new laser pointer. It's easy to see why defensive backs have such difficulty covering Farmer. A guy who has this many moves over a plate of nachos must be hell in the open field. "You want some salsa?" Farmer asked, jumping up to get some and then sitting back down. "Something to drink?" Up and down again.
Business as usual. "I've been around the guy since, well, the womb, and he just has a motor that won't stop," says Danny's twin brother, Tim, a senior volleyball player at Loyola Marymount. "He doesn't eat much, doesn't sleep much and never slows down. He's the only guy I know who can't even go to the beach and just hang."
Danny can't hang a national championship football banner, either, because four days after his hyperkinetic Tex-Mex dinner, Miami stunned the Bruins 49-45, ruining their perfect season and giving Farmer a sour memory that he expects will stay with him, roughly, forever. Never mind that he caught six passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns in the defeat, part of a brilliant junior season in which he had 51 receptions for 1,132 yards and moved within range of UCLA's career records in both categories. After the Bruins' subsequent Rose Bowl loss to Wisconsin, Farmer briefly considered leaving for the NFL. Rumors were flying that UCLA coach Bob Toledo might be going to the pros, and McNown and three fifths of the offensive line would not be returning. Danny probably would have been drafted high in the third round, but scouts told his father, George, a former receiver with the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions, that a good senior season could move Danny up considerably. "But the biggest thing," says Danny, "is that I love it here. I don't want to leave."