Washington State University redshirt senior linebacker Daiyan Henley had a historic season leading the Cougar defense. His 106 total tackles this season made him a finalist for the Butkus award, an honor given annually to the top linebacker in college football. He is the first Washington State player in history and the only Pac-12 player this year to become a finalist.
“It was not something I set out to do, I just set out to come play good football,” Henley said. “To be a kid out of L.A., Crenshaw district, Crenshaw High, to get an accomplishment like this, to be this close is amazing.”
Henley also earned a spot on the 2022 All-Pac-12 first team, making it the first time a WSU player earned first-team honors since 2003.
As the Cougars prepare to battle the Fresno State Bulldogs in the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl, Henley recently decided to opt out of playing in the game. Instead, he will be acting as an assistant linebackers coach, according to WSU football head coach Jake Dickert.
“He’s going to be down there with the team,” Dickert said. “He’s still a main leader on the team. I’m excited for this next phase, finishing it off then watching him be a professional.”
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Not only does Henley lead WSU in total tackles, but he is second in the Pac-12 in that category. He is also third in the league with 12 tackles for loss. In five different games, Henley made at least 10 tackles.
Henley made at least 0.5 of a tackle for loss in eight different games. He ultimately had 12.0 tackles for a loss of 33 yards this season.
Henley arrived at WSU as a graduate transfer, he earned a degree in criminal justice at Nevada while competing with the Wolf Pack football team. At Nevada, he played on offense, defense, and special teams. An important lesson he learned was how to adapt to different situations.
“Be ready to make change, never settle and don’t get complacent,” Henley said. “I’ve learned that because I’ve constantly grown. From Nevada, I’ve been in so many different positions of this game that I’ve learned that I can’t stay complacent.”
At WSU, Henley is studying social science; his favorite class is anthropology. He noted how being a student and an athlete can be challenging, but getting accomplishments in both is “a greater feeling.”
“The student comes first for a reason,” Henley said. “To come from Nevada and be able to get my degree and to go for another one here at Washington State, it has been in the forefront of my whole college career.”
Henley averaged 12.9 yards per catch as a wide receiver during his freshman year. As a sophomore, he helped the Wolf Pack win the 2018 Arizona Bowl, defeating Arkansas State 16-13.
“The bowl games have been amazing,” Henley said. “Just being able to travel has also been amazing because college football has taken me so many places I wouldn’t have went on my own.”
In high school, Henley was the quarterback of the Crenshaw Cougars. He earned City MVP honors and helped the Cougars reach the 2015 City Section Championships.