Puncture wounds, dislocated shoulders and sleep deprivation-are but a few of the ordeals that UCLA's Dan Landry has endured, though you would never know it by talking to him. Landry doesn't say much, and at last weekend's NCAA volleyball championships on the Bruins' home court in Pauley Pavilion, he did not have to: As UCLA won its 14th national title in 16 appearances in the Final Four, Landry's eight blocks and tournament-high 46 kills spoke eloquently enough. And where the stats stopped, Janet Landry picked up.
"I am Dan Landry's mother," she said after the Bruins' 15-8, 15-11, 15-10 win over Cal State-Northridge in the final match. "I sold my living room furniture to be here."
She was serious. The Landrys are Christian missionaries who live in Manila. Her husband, Ed, got to the tournament by stopping in Los Angeles on his way back from Kazakhstan in the former Soviet Union, where he had been working for a nondenominational Christian organization called the Bible League. "It was actually cheaper for me to come home this way," he says.
No way, however, could Janet swing airfare from the Philippines. Not having seen her son in two years, she hocked the living room set. "We can replace the furniture," says Ed. "We couldn't replace the memories from this weekend."
The Matadors from Northridge will also long remember Landry, a 6'4" senior with a 42-inch vertical leap. Thanks largely to the wizardlike feeds of senior setter Mike Sealy, Landry spent last Saturday evening in a state of prolonged levitation, tomahawking balls down Matador esophagi. "I'll be seeing him in my dreams," said Northridge coach John Price.
The season may have ended with a national crown, but it began dreadfully for Landry. An All-America last year, he was beaten out as the Bruins' opposite hitter by Mike Diehl, a transfer from UC Santa Barbara. Throughout the preseason, Landry had practiced listlessly. The problem was...muffins. To help pay his tuition (he's on a partial athletic scholarship), Landry delivered muffins to bakeries around Los Angeles. Three days a week, he rose at 3 a.m., worked nine or 10 hours, and then practiced. "He was half-dead all the time," says UCLA coach Al Scates.
When Diehl popped an elbow tendon in mid-January, Landry got his starting job back. He'd quit the muffin delivery job by then, but he still couldn't find his old form. The problem was...cactus. While puttering around barefoot outside his apartment, Landry took a false step and ended up with about 20 cactus spines in his right foot. The foot became infected. "Every night I'd come home and dig for the needles," he says. "Took three weeks to get 'em all."
Even though his play suffered—"it hurt to jump," he says—Landry saw no need to burden his coach with news of his latest tribulation. "I read about it in the Daily Bruin," says the still-incredulous Scates. Similarly, Scates had been among the last to find out about the chronic right shoulder dislocations that plagued Landry during the 1991 season. "I had to see it come out of its socket in a game to find out he had a problem," says Scates.
Landry had played a little volleyball growing up in San Diego, where his father was a fireman, but when he was in the ninth grade his father and mother decided to move to the Philippines with their five children to do missionary work. There the volleyball competition was a little less stiff. Scates recalls getting a parcel from Manila five years ago with a video of Landry's high school highlights. "It looked like he was playing against a bunch of pygmies," recalls Scates.
Nevertheless, Scates invited Landry to try out for the team. In his first year he was UCLA's worst player. Two years later he was an All-America. Now he is a national champion.