Long before being on a field with Justin Herbert, Derwin James, Eric Kendricks, and company, the first football field Los Angeles Chargers rookie linebacker Daiyan Henley played on had a coach he also called “uncle” off the field: Snoop Dogg.
Henley got his start with the Snoop Youth Football League. In an exclusive 1-on-1 with PFN Life, the 2023 third-rounder shares the kind of coach Snoop Dogg was and how growing up in South Central L.A. molded him into the man he is now.
Was Snoop Dogg Hard To Play For?
For starters, Henley remembers the coaching style Snoop brought to the field.
“Snoop was the fun coach,” Henley shared with PFN Life. “He called the plays, and he tried to get us some touchdowns. That was Snoop.”
The world sees Snoop as the humorous, jovial workaholic known for many entertainment ventures — from being a multi-platinum rapper, producer, actor, and the founder of his own youth football league. Is that the Snoop Henley also sees?
“Snoop is exactly what you see on TV: He’s liked, he’s a joy, he’s fun,” Henley said.
Still, Henley credits the renowned entertainer for helping to shape him.
“He’s a good mentor to have,” Henley said of Snoop. “And yeah, I met him when I was very young.”
That was before his football career began. And that relationship was set up through another prominent force in the West Coast hip-hop scene: His father Eugene Henley, better known as “Big U.”
Was ‘Big U’ Harder on Daiyan Henley?
“Big U” is best known for going from ex-gang leader to record executive credited for helping launch the careers of Snoop Dogg, Kurupt, and the late Nipsey Hussle. He’s now co-founder of the non-profit Developing Options, which helps at-risk L.A. youth.
Eugene Henley, though, has worn the football coaching hat when around the Crenshaw neighborhood, notably with the Crenshaw Rams. And while Snoop was the “fun coach,” Henley’s dad was the exact opposite but for a reason.
“I remember getting my first bruise, and my dad slapped it and said ‘it ain’t nothing’ with tears down my face,” Henley said smiling when reflecting back. “So I get back into the game, and I’m finishing the whole game. So my mental toughness and fortitude is from my dad.”
That hard-nosed coaching style, though, hardened Henley into becoming one of the more dominating linebackers in the Pac-12 before his Chargers career.
“My dad was my first coach. I would definitely give him the credit for instilling the mental toughness in me. And that’s why I play the way I play. It’s why I’m so versatile,” Henley said. “I don’t see danger when I see run game, I see a chance to go make action. That mentality and training comes from my dad.”
Henley Adds Crenshaw as Another Reason for Building Him
Coach Snoop and Coach Big U weren’t the only coaches who brought out the best in Henley. His last coach before drifting off to Pullman, Washington, is another he credits for further molding him.
Robert Garrett was his high school head coach — the same Garrett who got Crenshaw High to snatch five L.A. city section titles while producing future NFL names like De’Anthony “Black Mamba” Thomas and former Charger Brandon Mebane.
“Crenshaw is one of a kind. It’s a tough place. Having Robert Garrett as a tough coach, he’s a guy who’s going to drive stuff out of you. He’s not going to allow you to dwell. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing football in the future, he’s building men,” Henley said. “To have that within me in my DNA as a football player, that’s the product that you see today. It goes back to my Crenshaw roots.”
Henley established himself as a national recruit at a school that’s suddenly witnessed a drop in enrollment (according to the Los Angeles Times, Crenshaw’s enrollment went from 1,800 students in 2010 to under 500 in 2022). Henley thrived at “The ‘Shaw” during a time private schools were siphoning L.A. city section talent.
But Henley stayed loyal to his home soil. And drifting off would’ve never got him to be coached up by his dad, Garrett, and of course, Coach Snoop.
“To have Snoop around growing up, it was amazing because I had my father and a famous uncle figure. Just having those two things combined, and as a kid growing up it’s a dream come true. And you don’t realize it. I look at it now like, ‘Wow! That was cool.’ As a kid, it was like ‘What’s up Uncle Snoop,’ just a normal day,” Henley said.