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Cal Football: Ignore His Age and Size, Lu-Magia Hearns III is Developing into a Leader

The sophomore cornerback is trying to share what he's learned with the newcomers.

Cornerback Lu-Magia-Hearns III played his freshman season for Cal last fall at 158 pounds, as he discusses in the video above. On Thursday, he was all the way up to 167.

Now a sophomore, he won’t turn 19 until Saturday.

In other words, Hearns is not the biggest or the oldest among the Golden Bears.

But the one-time De La Salle High School star is not only one of the Bears’ established starters on defense, he’s a developing team leader.

“It happened quick for me,” Hearns said of taking on that assignment. “It kind of started last year (as) people asked me to do certain things. I feel like that’s always been my role, just coming up, even in my (younger) days, being one of those guys that people look up to and can call on.”

Cal defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon says in the video above that leaders come in all shapes and sizes and that Hearns fits the bill nicely.

“He’s established himself as a guy that people look to.”

Even as merely a sophomore?

“Absolutely,” Sirmon said. “Anybody can be a leader. A leader’s about influencing people and not everybody is that prototypical leader, fifth- or sixth-year player. Leadership comes in all forms and leadership comes in really in all levels.

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“Leadership isn’t always vocal. Some people view leadership as the most demonstrative or the loudest player or the best player. Those aren’t always the case.”

Hearns doesn’t try to be the big voice in the room. That’s not him. But he takes the game seriously and is all about team. He hopes his teammates recognize that.

“I would say I’m more of a quiet guy. I’m more of an example than a yeller,” he said. “I’m not going to yell at you or harp on certain things.

“I’ll pull you to the side and correct you if need be, but I’m not going to be one of those guys out there just hoo-rahing the whole time because I know some people don’t take that well.”

Hearns was a starter as a freshman last season by Week 5 thanks to a well-developed ability to play the ball, even at just 5-foot-10 (per Cal's official roster, although his Dad says it's 5-11). He led the Bears with 10 pass breakups in 2021.

Just a year after he was the new kid in the defensive backs room, Hearns tries to share what he learned with incoming freshmen, including Cam Sidney and Jeremiah Earby.

“I’m trying to get some of the younger guys acclimated. I know what it feels like to be in their shoes, just learning all this new stuff being thrown at you,” he said. “Just trying to help them along and help our defense get where it needs to be.”

Hearns made a nice interception in the end zone during practice on Thursday, and Sirmon sees Hearns continuing to hone his skills in order to compensate for what is sometimes a height disadvantage.

“He established himself as a really fine player. He has continued to improve himself through his practice habits,” Sirmon said. “He’s around the ball, he’s playing the ball very effectively. As a shorter-stature player he’s going to have some shots taken at him, and he’s doing a nice job of working through that.”

Cover photo of Cal cornerback Lu-Magia Hearns III

Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo