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UCLA football defensive back Martell Irby and linebacker Bo Calvert were the two players made available to the media after Friday's practice.

Irby spoke about the possible impact of COVID-19 on the Bruins, as well as what he sees in his future in Westwood. Calvert talked about sitting at home and watching bowl games with his family over the past few seasons, and how much it means that he's finally going to be able to play in one himself this year.

MARTELL IRBY

COVID concerns, anything different?

Oh, man. Yeah, we’re well aware of everything that’s been going on, but we stay true to our protocol, nothing has changed since the beginning of all this, so we’re just going to continue to be cautious, continue to be aware of what we’re doing when we leave these facilities and just make sure we’re moving in manners [?] so we can play this game, you know, that we’ve put in so much work, just make sure we’re keeping track of where we’re going, where we’re at and just keeping our distance so we can get out there and play a bowl game, yeah.

Could be a statement win?

Man, I really just feel like this is our way to send our seniors and everybody leaving off well, you know, since I’ve been here the last four years we’ve been trying to get to the point where we’re at now and even more, so just being able to send them off with a just a big win, a bowl game, that would be amazing. That’s our focus, just doing right by our teammates, doing right by [inaudible] and sending them off with a warm feeling.

Hyped going to your first bowl game?

Oh, man, we’re super hyped for every game. Just being able to get to this point, we’re really just excited to go out and get the band together back one more time and showcase our talent, showcase everything we’ve been working toward throughout this year and send these seniors off with a smile, man.

Going to defense this season?

Oh, man, it was just a blessing, the way that things worked out, I really didn’t expect it but kind of just bought in and looking back, it was a great experience and I’m looking forward to be able to come back and take everything that I’ve learned and just take it to the next level, one more year.

Future here?

Oh, man. Sitting here and thinking about the future, really just, I feel like there’s so much we can accomplish this year yet, you know, we made it to a bowl game, we got eight wins but that wasn’t the goal initially, we had so much in store, so just being able to come back, correct the little things, being able to take that next step as individuals and more importantly as a collective, as a unit, to be able to take that next step because you’ll win Pac-12 championships, things like that, so I feel like the future is very bright here at UCLA, so just eager man, but right now just focused on the bowl game and ending this season well and getting back to work.

Most important game this season that pointed things in the right direction?

Um, man, that’s a good question, sir. I really don’t even feel like it was a singular game, it was more so a mindset that we had to kind of all just come together and realize what we had at stake, realize the talent that we had, the players that we had, the opportunity that we had right in front of us, so I wouldn’t say it was one game. We just grasped a hold of the mindset that we could be great, so let’s go do that.

How much are you playing the sax?

Oh, man, I’m going to be honest, I haven’t really had time with finals and just trying to make sure that I’m good, trying to get into grad school right now out here at UCLA, so I’ve been focused on school and academics and finishing off that right, but in a minute it’s about to be off-season so I’m going to have all the time in the world, so I’m not too worried.

Relax with it?

Yes, sir. Yes, sir, indeed.

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Grad school?

I’m going to going into transformative coaching and leadership, so just being able to take everything that I’ve been learning through all my years in sports and having important mentors in my life and just taking that to the next level, get some education in there so I can turn around and put that to use and impact those who come after me.

BO CALVERT

Thoughts on COVID right now? Level of concern?

Yeah, obviously everything going on with the basketball programs here is not something that you want to happen to any program anywhere. The teams in the NFL are dealing with it, being forced out of games and whatnot. I think just the general message is that you can't let your guard down, this thing's still going around and that no matter whether you like it or not, it's gonna affect the game in one way or another. No matter which way you see it, you gotta be conscious of what you're doing outside the building and just making sure you're in a good environment where you're not gonna harm the team and just don't be selfish in the things that you do. And hopefully if everyone can do that, individually, we'll be alright and be able to stick it out. I think during COVID, our team was one of the only teams that didn't miss a game at all, the whole season, so I think we understand how to do that the proper way. That being said, there's no – you can't have any control over this or this virus, at the end of the day. When it comes on campus and it starts spreading like crazy, the most you can do is just stick to the protocol, what we've been given. But there's gonna be some people along the way that get it no matter what, even if they are vaccinated, which some people that are vaccinated, getting booster shots, whatever, doing the full nine, wearing a mask everywhere they go and they still get it somehow. So just a crazy thing and hopefully moving forward, we'll be able to get through this season and be able to have a good bowl game and excited to get out there in San Diego and get after it and hopefully the basketball team here can do the same thing.

Your perspective on getting a bowl win for this program and its direction?

I think, like Martell said, it's a great game for the guys who are parting ways from the program to give it one last go at it and go out there as a team. I think this team has been working for a long while together and being able to have older guys, fifth and sixth year guys that have been dedicated to the team for a long time now, and my class as well, guys have been here, this is their fourth year, they've been grinding it out over these years. And we've had ups and downs and we're moving in the right direction and this is one last game that we can kind of all band together and use that last game to have some fun memories. Bowl games are fun, be able to enjoy the time as a team, that's something you work for over the whole season, you grind for and it's still a game you gotta play at the end of the week, but every day, you're just thankful to be here on campus during Christmas break while everybody's gone. The last couple of years, I've gone home with my family, which is awesome, but you're sitting there at home and you're wishing you were in a bowl game yourself. So being able just to say you're in a bowl game, I think you gotta take the little things and put it in perspective – I'm healthy, most of the guys on the team are doing great and everybody looks like they're gonna be suiting up as far as injury-wise and whatnot, for guys that are gonna be playing. Pretty much everyone's playing so it's just a great thing to go out there and play with your guys next to you and at the end of the game, hug it out, there'll be some guys that are leaving, sadly. But one last game we get to go out there together.

Experience watching bowls from home?

Yeah, obviously there was some growing pains early on in the program and things that you look back on. At the end of the day, it's a good thing that you have those frustrations, those things cause it's sort of a mental note you take and realize 'I never want to do that again, ever.' Don't wanna be sitting out while everyone else is playing bowl games and we're at home. So something you kind of look back on and I'm thankful for the process, just being able to stick with it throughout this whole time here and being able to continue doing that with the guys we've had. And they've just been cool being able to be around guys really dedicated long-term. I think today's world, there's a lot of instant gratification where if you're seeing what you're – if you're not liking the things you've been doing in one year, guys wanna transfer or go somewhere else or – you can take it in any aspect of life, everybody wants short-term gains either way, that's just not how the world works. You gotta grind for a while and put in the work day in, day out and to be able to look up, put your head up after a long couple of years and realize that those things are starting to pay off and you're moving in a positive direction. That's really encouraging and just helps you to recognize that you're doing something right.

New COVID policies internally?

I don't know about anything more stricter. I think we've been pretty good with it throughout all of COVID as far as the protocols that we have in place, testing and whatnot, just guys wearing masks. But yeah, I would say just cognitively being able to be aware that outside of the building, you need to be a lot more careful in the things that you're doing and letting your guard down, times where you might pull down your mask when you're walking around, filling up gas or whatever, maybe you try to sneak away from people, at least these next couple weeks while we're getting ready for the game. So I would say just the reminder is don't let your guard down when you're doing things outside of here and just try to make the extra step to watch out for your guys on the team and don't be the guy who's bringing it into the building.

How much pride do you take in being one of the team leaders in sacks and TFL?

Yeah, I think it's – like we say here, that's not a badge you put on your chest and kind of wave that around, that's just kind of a standard you hold yourself to. When you start having success, I'm thankful for the coaches I've had. Unfortunately, we've had some coaches leave, taking some better positions, coach Nansen, coach Kaufusi. Just wanted to give a shout out to them, they grinded really hard throughout this whole last year, helped me and our whole position group to get after the quarterback and be able to have some successful pass rushes and that's a position that I hadn't played in a long time and I was getting some good coaching from them and worked on a lot of drills throughout the whole year to be able to make that happen. Obviously Mitchell Agude too, Carl Jones and Odua and all the guys on the front just being able to get after the quarterback. It's a team effort and some of the things you don't realize is you'll have one guy get a sack but in reality, it's that whole D-line that is working towards maybe getting that guy in a 1-on-1 opportunity so myself or Mitch or Otito or Datona might get a 1-on-1 and they win that. And obviously that was their sack, but it's a whole team effort that you gotta orchestrate together to be able to make that happen. And so when guys are coming in around you, that's why people get so hyped when we get a sack because it's so hard to do over and over in a game and to be able to do that, you need the whole defense working together. So I think we've done that, worked really well together. Hopefully we can get some more in this bowl game.

How much is going to be looking back on successes of this season versus opportunities lost?

Yeah, I think there's always things you can look back on and hope to improve on and realize that certain games and whatnot, you could've made a play here, you could've done that. I think that's a tough place to live though, the woulda coulda shoulda world. I think the thing you can do is, if you're gonna look back at those things, is the space for improvement. I think if you can continue to do that everyday, then that's gonna put you in a better position. But if you're sitting and sulking and wishing 'Ah man, I could've done this, if this person would've done this' or whatnot, we'd be in a different position, but anybody could say that about any time. But I think, like you said, there was a lot of really good things we can look back on to be proud of. There's a lot of very fun games that we had in the Rose Bowl, around the Pac-12, that I'll be able to take with me for the rest of my life. Being able to remember those wins and my family being at games, taking pictures and going up to Utah, it was a tough game, but being able to see my brothers was awesome, being able to do that. There's little memories here and there that, in the locker room, things you'll cherish forever. And obviously the game play, just being able to make plays and do different things and watching guys who have made a play in practice over and over again and you know that guy is hungry to make that play in a game and he goes out and gets a pick or gets a sack or scores a touchdown or makes a key block and you're just so proud for that guy because the public is now seeing that, but you've seen that guy grind day in and day out, do that over and over again. I think that's the great thing about football, when you look back on a season and you're kind of sad that the season's over, you can at least hold those memories in and be able to hold that forever and I think that's something that's amazing about the game.

Could you tell the leap was coming this year from behind the scenes stuff?

Yeah, I think you try to cling onto those small little improvements to help yourself stay motivated, keep going. You see those little things like your foot placement, your hand placement, little tiny things you're critiquing on film you don't realize. But you sort of build those things day in and day out over and over again and all of a sudden, you go from struggling to make this tackle or whatnot or not getting to finish the tackle or not finishing the sack and all of a sudden, you see those things and the game becomes slower and you start working on those things and you see guys around you sort of doing the same thing. So the amount of growth we've had on the team – obviously it's taken its time to get there and I think that's just the reality of the way things go is that some people pick up things maybe in 50 reps, other guys it takes 100 reps, maybe another guy it takes 300 reps, but at the end of the day, if you can do that over and over again, at some point, everybody's gonna be matching up on one level and you're gonna have the whole team at least improving and we've seen that throughout this year, being able to have the production we've had, the wins we've had, the exciting games we've had. It's been a lot of work to get here and I'm proud of the guys and what we've done. We've still got one more game to show what we've been doing, we've been grinding here during the holiday break. While everybody else is at home doing things, we'll be out here grinding and taking pride in that, being able to be a guy who's showing up everyday, who's gonna be working and be able to show that on gameday and we're excited to do that.

How many games would you watch in past bowl seasons?

I mean, during bowl games, obviously it's during the holiday break so you're at home and it's pretty much all day. Back-to-back, there's a stretch where it's every day, you turn on the TV and maybe just wanna watch ESPN for fun and all of a sudden there's a bowl game and you're like 'Ah dang.' So there was definitely some times where I was watching the games for entertainment, there was definitely some times I turned the TV off and maybe just went on a hike or something, went out to dinner or whatever, it's too tough to see those things. But like I said, the thing that kind of stuck with us – and I think it was – I'm not just speaking for myself the other guys – we felt those years where we were home, there would be texts sent back and forth of 'Man, we could be doing this, we just gotta work on this, whatever, bla bla bla, and we'll be there.' And now to be able to say we've done that, it's a testament to the guys we have here, guys who have stuck it out and continued to work. And that's one of the things that I'm really proud of is being able to be surrounded by these guys. It's tough, like I said, I said it before, there's not a lot of people who are willing to sacrifice years of their time to be able to just have one game and have a big season like this, it doesn't come just from one year. That's the kind of guys we have, I'm really proud of that.

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