By Conor Gaffney
From Cub to Bruin and field to hardwood, CIF Champion and soon-to-be University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Hall of Famer Mr. Danny Farmer ‘95 has excelled as both a football and volleyball sportsman.
Farmer, who will be inducted into the UCLA Hall of Fame on Friday, was raised in a household marked by athletics, especially football. Farmer’s father, George, who played football, basketball, and ran track for UCLA, was inducted into the UCLA Hall of Fame in 2000. He continued his football career by playing for six years in the National Football League (NFL) with the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions. One of Danny Farmer’s uncles, Dave Farmer, also played in the NFL. Additionally, two of Farmer’s cousins, David Farmer Jr., and Kevin Stromsborg, played collegiate football at the University of Hawaii and UCLA, respectively. Farmer grew up playing sports with his twin brother, Tim, who attended Loyola and played volleyball for the Cubs.
Despite significant exposure to football during his early life, Farmer was not permitted to play tackle football until his high school career: “I never played tackle football until I got to Loyola. My parents said, ‘You are not going to play tackle football.’ We basically played flag [football]up until getting into Loyola, and I think the rationale there was that my parents wanted us to play every sport growing up to see what we really liked.”
During his childhood Farmer played multiple sports, including soccer; basketball, which was his favorite; and volleyball, the sport that he eventually played as a member of the 1996 and 1998 UCLA Men’s Volleyball teams that won national championship titles for the Bruins.
Farmer enrolled at Loyola High School in 1991 and immediately continued his career as a multi-sport athlete; he played four years of basketball, football and volleyball for Loyola, an experience that challenged him to develop a strong self-discipline and time management skills.
“I think time management is one of the hardest things to do, especially when you are playing multiple sports; you can’t sit around, you can’t delay on doing homework. You have to get stuff done in the time that you are allowed,” Farmer said.
Mr. Bill Thomason, Director of Advancement, Alumni Relations, coached Farmer in basketball during his junior and senior year and said that what distinguished Farmer from other high school athletes was his genuine love of playing multiple sports. “He was not out for the glory of being fantastic in one sport; he just loved participating and loved playing, and he was a good enough athlete to do all of that,” Thomason said.
Farmer’s high school athletic career was also infused with victory, particularly in volleyball. During his senior year, Farmer helped lead the Cubs to the 1995 CIF Championship, an accomplishment that proved to be especially touching for him. “Our senior class was really good in volleyball, and to have it end with a championship was very rewarding, especially when you get to do it with the people you started school with, and it made it that much more special,” Farmer said.
Farmer said that he enjoyed playing sports for Loyola because he was able to acquire virtues like selflessness, which he still strives to apply to his daily life. “I love Loyola because of my teams, and I had such great teams and teammates, and what that did is teach me how to manage people around you, how to work with people around you in a capacity where you are taking your best attributes to make everybody else around you better for the common goal. It was less individual and more focused on team; and that is the one thing that I really liked about Loyola and tried to carry that through my entire life.”
Farmer also said that he valued his Loyola experience because of the presence of male role models, like Bill Thomason, on campus: “I was fortunate to have a wonderful father figure in my life, but Loyola also gave me other father figures like Bill Thomason who was always there for us; I respect that more now than I did back then. When I look back at my time at Loyola, a person like Bill Thomason is someone that I respect so much because of the way that he carried himself and for the way that he tried to get the most out of us at a time when we really didn’t understand what that meant.”
Despite his apparent success in high school football and volleyball, Farmer struggled to receive offers from universities that would allow him to play both sports at the collegiate level. Eventually, UCLA offered Farmer a volleyball scholarship and also gave him the opportunity to walk-on the Bruins’ football team but warned Farmer that NCAA regulations would not permit him to play both sports while on a volleyball scholarship. In order to pursue his love of playing multiple sports, Farmer turned down the volleyball scholarship so that he could play both volleyball and football at UCLA, where he is now the record-holder for all-time receiving yards with 3,020 yards.
Adding to his success, Farmer also helped the Bruins secure two Pacific-10 Conference championships during his UCLA career.
Like his father, Farmer continued his football career as a wide receiver in the NFL. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fourth round of the 2000 NFL draft but suffered an injury during training camp that led to his release from the team. A day after his release from Pittsburgh, Farmer was signed by the Cincinnati Bengals for four years. Farmer also played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins during his six-year NFL career.
One of Farmer’s most notable NFL memories was during an away-game in San Diego when he was a member of the Cincinnati Bengals. Farmer’s parents purchased approximately 75 tickets to the game and distributed them to family members and friends, many of whom he had met at Loyola.
Despite his team’s loss, Farmer considered the experience invaluable: “We were not very good, and we lost the game, but the one thing that I took away from that is how many family members and friends showed up. It’s two hours away, and what it made me realize was that I was very fortunate to have what I have and to have the family and friends that I have. To me, that was probably the greatest moment—just walking onto the field and knowing that I had a whole bunch of people that were there for me from day one.”
Despite Farmer’s athletic successes, he values his character rather than fame, according to Thomason: “If you meet Danny Farmer now, you’d be impressed by what a wonderful guy he is. He is the kind of guy who doesn’t feel the need to talk about his successes as a football star; he does not feel the need to impress anybody. You impress everybody by who you are. He has great character.”
Farmer remains involved in the Loyola community as the committee chair for the Loyola Alumni Golf Tournament. Additionally, he has purchased the blue banner that hangs on the northwest side of Smith Field.
Thomason, who will be in attendance at Farmer’s induction Friday, said that Farmer continues to represent the qualities that a Loyola Cub should practice: “He is what you hope a Loyola High guy would turn out to be and what we are fortunate enough to have a lot of our guys turn out to be. Danny is one of our best examples.”