Kurt Streeter from the LA Times follows up his great piece on Rick Neuheisel with a fantastic column on two Bruins - Johnathan Franklin & Rahim Moore - who also happened to grow up together as Dorsey High School graduates. The season is very young and we got a long way to go but Streeter is recognizing what these two kids mean to UCLA football:
It's very clear what the two Bruins mean to their current team. The Kansas State game showed it. Franklin became the first Bruins back to rush for more than 100 yards in 12 games.
Moore, who started as a freshman, seemed smack in the dust of every downfield tackle. The more we see of him -- five interceptions in three games, nearly two more in the 23-9 win over the Wildcats -- the more it becomes clear he should go ahead and have "All-American" tattooed on his back.
What this pair means to Westwood is a real chance at old glory.
And what they mean to community where they went back on Friday night for a little homecoming at Dorsey High School:
"Leadership," said Paul Knox, the Dorsey head coach who has produced handfuls of pros and bushels of college stars. "That we have two young men here who do things right."
"Legacy," said A.R. Mateo, a tutor who prepped the two Bruins for the demands of college. "Not just for their generation, but the next generation and the generation after that . . . they're proving you can come out of here and make it at a place like UCLA."
"Inspiration," added Carolynn Middleton, a Dorsey English teacher who has known the pair since the 10th grade. As she spoke, all I could think was how these are the kids we need to celebrate in South L.A. The kinds we need to wrap our arms around and push: straight arrows, even amid the occasional madness. A pair always focused tightly on their goals, always willing to do whatever extra it took to get there -- extra sprints or extra pushups or extra chapters of math.
She remembered how Franklin -- "Jet Ski" as he's known at Dorsey -- started a movement to stop swearing and cursing at his school. She noted that she calls Moore "The Deacon" because when he wasn't toting around a football, he either had his nose in a Bible or his head down in a prayer. "They were special here," she said. "And right now, just by doing well at UCLA, they're still special."
Said Moore as he left the Dorsey field, heading off to make curfew on the evening of a big game: "I feel so much love here that it's just rejuvenating. Believe me, it's seriously going to motivate us to take this kind of feeling back to the team we play for now."
On this space we have offered strong (and deserved) criticisms Streeter (going back to those painful Dorrell years). While we were harsh when we pushed back, I think we also have to offer him just as strong praise when he gets it right sharing these wonderful stories that we didn't know before, and makes us feel good for a change in a modern sports world filled with toxic cyncism.
Last night's game wasn't perfect and I was frustrated at times during third quarter. But the bottom line right now is I clearly sense the vibe is changing. There is a 3-0 team in Los Angeles and it happens to be ours. It's a good feeling. I am going to enjoy it. You should do the same.