LOS ANGELES — Brett Hundley decided the NFL can wait until he accomplishes a few more feats for UCLA.
Hundley will return for his junior season, the UCLA quarterback announced Monday at a campus news conference packed with teammates and friends.
After just two seasons as the Bruins’ prolific starter, Hundley likely would have been a high pick in the upcoming draft, perhaps even the first quarterback taken. He waited a few days after UCLA’s Sun Bowl victory before deciding he wants another shot at the Rose Bowl, a national title or a Heisman Trophy with the up-and-coming Bruins.
“We’re going to do big things this year, so let’s have some fun and do it,” Hundley said.
Hundley has been the UCLA starter since his first game under coach Jim Mora, running for a 72-yard score on his first collegiate snap in 2012. He has won 19 games and established himself as one of the nation’s top young quarterbacks with his arm and his legs, but Hundley believes he can do much more with a loaded, experienced roster behind him this fall.
“All the stars are really aligned to put together something really special at UCLA,” Hundley said. “And not just something that you’ll forget about, but something where you’ll be remembered for something along the line. When you get old, you can look back and say, ‘I was part of that team and that program, and helped bring them back to where they needed to be.’”
UCLA won 10 games this season for the first time since 2005, trouncing rival Southern California for the second straight year and finishing second in the Pac-12 South. Hundley was selected the offensive MVP of the Bruins’ victory over Virginia Tech in the Sun Bowl last month after passing for 226 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 161 more yards and two scores, showcasing his dynamic game to a national audience.
Hundley spoke to former UCLA teammates Johnathan Franklin and Datone Jones about their NFL experiences while making his decision, and they encouraged him to take his time with the Bruins.
“Johnathan Franklin, he told me that there are things in life you don’t want to rush,” Hundley said of his former tailback, now with the Green Bay Packers. “That sort of stuck. Knowing that you’re only in college once, and to play this game and to be part of this kind of brotherhood that we’ve built here and understand we’re on the verge of something great … is something that I really want to be a part of.”
Hundley, an economics major, also indicated that a fourth year of school will allow him to get his degree from UCLA.
Hundley already has done plenty for UCLA, and the school intends to promote him as a star in 2014. After his announcement, the athletic department’s website was plastered with photos and a Heisman campaign for the fleet-footed quarterback.
Hundley, who’s from the Phoenix area, redshirted in 2011 under coach Rick Neuheisel. He resisted the urge to rush the touted prospect into games — even though Neuheisel ended up getting fired late in the season.
Mora immediately recognized Hundley’s talent, and the quarterback has started every game of the coach’s two seasons. Hundley already ranks third in school history with 7,914 yards of total offense after setting the single-season record as a freshman, and is fourth in career yards passing (6,811) and third in TD passes (53) and completions (566).
The Bruins should be a Pac-12 favorite next year with Hundley headlining an impressive returning roster. Mora gave significant playing time to dozens of freshmen while going 10-3 this season, and the Bruins are expecting to land a loaded recruiting class.
UCLA offensive lineman Xavier Su’a-Filo passed up his senior season to enter the draft, but the rest of Hundley’s injury-plagued line will return with experience. The Bruins frequently started three freshmen on the line this season due to injuries.
“What’s about to take place here and how close we are to being great at UCLA is something that I didn’t want to leave yet,” Hundley said. “From what we’ve built in two years, we have the potential to turn that into something really great.”