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'I am going to be the biggest sponge above ocean level' | Daiyan Henley is ready for the NFL

The former WSU linebacker was drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

LOS ANGELES — It's the call every football player dreams of, the general manager of an NFL team selecting you to join their franchise.

That call came on day two of the 2023 NFL Draft for former WSU linebacker Daiyan Henley and it just so happened to be coming from one of his hometown teams.

"Just to be home and be able to be in my city and be a Charger is the greatest feeling. It's something I could not have even imagined," Henley said.

The Los Angeles Chargers drafted Henley with the 85th pick in the third round. It may have been a longer wait than Henley expected, but he is keeping everything in perspective.

"I was a two star recruit out of high school, did not have a position and redshirted as a junior in college, which is not normal. To go in the third round is a blessing. If I would have gone undrafted or slide to the seventh round, what people fail to realize is, I would still be going to the NFL, so I am beyond blessed for the situation and where I am," Henley said.

Henley is using that chip on his shoulder from falling in the draft as extra motivation for his rookie season.

"For me to be considered a steal in the draft, I want to prove that to be correct. I want to be a guy who goes out and does exactly what is expected of him and then surpasses that. Doing what is expected is not enough for me, I need to go above and beyond expectations," Henley said.

In his one season at Washington State, Henley shined. He finished second in the PAC-12 in tackles and was a finalist for the Dick Butkus Award. Henley credits the WSU coaching staff for preparing him so well for the NFL.

"I spent a lot of time in that film room having extra conversations with my coaches and bouncing ideas off of Brian Ward. I also asked Coach Dickert a million questions because I knew that he had knowledge about my position and just feeding off of those with greater knowledge than I on the sport that I love," Henley said.

Henley now joins a defense filled with longtime NFL stars and he hopes to continue soaking up more knowledge to elevate his game.

"I am trying to be the biggest sponge above sea level and take in anything I can. I aspire to be like the guys that I am going to be around and I just want to be accepted as a key role player eventually. I know nothing is given, so I want to earn that, of course," Henley said.

Henley's father Eugene and mother Stacey run a nonprofit called Developing Options in Los Angeles and Daiyan is excited to help out in his hometown community.

"In my community, sports has been seen as the quickest way to achieve success and it is not, so I want to open up doors and opportunities for kids to look into, so they know they have other options to be successful. I also want to teach them about what happens in the law, so there is no fear when it comes to the law," Henley said.

For fans looking to purchase Henley's first Chargers jersey, he will be wearing the number zero. He is the first player in Chargers history to ever wear number zero. He explained his reasoning behind his decision.

"I am thinking of making a statement and starting my career by doing something no one has ever done before and hopefully at the end of my career. I can stand up there with the greats as the only number zero," Henley said.

To no one's surprise, the Ranger is already standing out in his early NFL career.

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