Brett Hundley will be back at UCLA for one more season.
The quarterback, who starred at Chandler High School, turned down potential NFL riches Monday morning, announcing in a press conference on campus that he will stay for his redshirt junior campaign and setting the Bruins up for what could be their best season in more than a decade.
“I came to UCLA for this specific reason,” Hundley said. “Not to just do something for the program to help me just personally, but to bring UCLA back to national prominence. I think that was the one thing that sort of stuck in my head.”
Hundley’s status was in question after leading the Bruins to their first 10-win season since 2005, but ESPN NFL reporter Adam Schefter broke the news Sunday that the quarterback would be back.
The 20-year-old Arizona native has eligibility running through the 2015 season, but said 2014 will mark his last run as a college player.
A strong performance in the Sun Bowl made his decision far more difficult than expected. Hundley rushed for a career-high 161 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-12 win over Virginia Tech, throwing for 226 yards and two scores. At some point, the decision felt to him like a “coin flip.”
He said his NFL draft evaluation slotted him anywhere from a second-rounder down to a fourth, with a chance at going in the first. Some analysts had pegged him as a high first-round choice. What stuck with him more, though, was his professed desire to leave a more meaningful legacy at UCLA.
“Everyone’s like, ‘Oh, your mock draft (projection) is here,’” he said. “The evaluation comes back as second round, but all the mock drafts are top-10, top-15. It’s sort of like, which one are you going to go with?
“At the end of the day, my worry wasn’t that I wouldn’t get drafted in the first round. I felt confident that I would. It was just sort of where I am and what I want to do with my talents right now.”
Hundley consulted with numerous people, including UCLA’s all-time leading rusher Johnathan Franklin, drafted in the fourth round last year by the Green Bay Packers. The quarterback said the decision was easy once he allowed time for emotions and hype to settle down.
He said he made up his mind about three days ago.
“I had a real strong feeling,” said head coach Jim Mora, who said Hundley told him the final decision Sunday night. “When it’s an emotional decision like this, until you hear it come out of a young man’s mouth, you never know.”
Over a month ago, after UCLA’s second straight win over USC and its first at the Coliseum since 1997, Mora proclaimed outside the visiting locker room: “We own this town.”
Their sights are set even higher now.
“We want to get to the Rose Bowl,” Mora said. “We want to win the Pac-12 South, we want to win the Pac-12. See how far we can take that. … It’s better to have that pressure.”
Added Hundley: “What we have built for next year, all the stars are aligned.”