Son of rap exec Big U forges own path with NFL's Chargers

·3 min read

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Daiyan Henley grew up with a well-known father. The spotlight is now shining on him after he was selected in the third round of the NFL draft by his hometown Los Angeles Chargers.

Henley, who played linebacker at Washington State, was the 85th overall selection on Friday night.

Record executive Eugene “Big U” Henley has worked with many prominent West Coast rappers, including Snoop Dogg, Kurupt and the late Nipsey Hussle. The elder Henley also helped produce and was featured in the 2021 FX documentary series “Hip Hop Uncovered.”

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“I might be one of the most famous people he knows now. It’s just crazy just to be on the flip side of that aspect,” Daiyan Henley said at the team complex on Saturday.

Eugene now runs a nonprofit called Developing Options, which works to help at-risk youth in Los Angeles. Daiyan's mother, Stacey, also works for the foundation.

Henley said his parents deserve a lot of credit for his success.

When it comes to the docuseries featuring his father, Henley said he had already known most of the stories that were told, but there were still a couple that were new to him.

Besides his connection to music, Big U is a former gang leader. He was arrested in a drug sting and served 12 years of a 23-year sentence.

“This guy did a lot of stuff in his past and gets on me about having a ‘C’ in class. That’s the type of dad that I had,” Henley said. “When I look at that documentary, I’m already deep in college and I’m thinking, ‘Hey, man. You were wildin’ back then. I’m over here getting scolded for having a C or leaving some trash somewhere.’ Which, you can’t do that.”

Henley's football career has been an interesting journey. He grew up in South Central Los Angeles and played at Crenshaw, one of the city’s top high school programs. He was primarily a quarterback but ended up playing five different positions, including kicker.

Henley began his college career at Nevada in 2017 and played receiver his first two seasons. He moved to safety in 2019, but played only four games before suffering a season-ending injury and being redshirted. After two years in the secondary, he moved to linebacker in 2021 and led the team with 103 tackles.

Henley transferred to Washington State last season and was a first-team All-Pac 12 selection. He was second in the conference with 106 tackles and his 12 stops for loss were tied for fifth.

He also played in all four coverage and return units on special teams with the Cougars, and is expected to immediately contribute in those areas for the Chargers.

While Henley and his parents are happy he was drafted by a hometown team, he joked that being nearby has its drawbacks.

“As much as I’m excited, I got to figure out how to keep my mom away from my address, so if you guys have any ideas on how to hide an address from your mother, I need those tips,” he said, laughing.

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Joe Reedy, The Associated Press