California Dreamin - Mamas & The Papas (via goldhunting)
One of the reasons there are always high expectations for UCLA football is that Southern California features one of the richest collection of high school football talent. The theory goes, if UCLA is able to just get it’s fair share of the local players, then they’ll always be contenders.
As we get set to complete another recruiting class, I wanted to take a moment to recognize some of the great players who have worn the Blue and Gold after growing up outside the greater Los Angeles area.
You know, it’s just different for them. They don’t grow up going to our games or necessarily even following our program. When a player from out of the area decides to spend his college years in Westwood, he knows that his parents, friends and family won’t be around to provide a home-cooked meal, to help with a load of laundry or even to attend the games. Out-of-towners don’t get to see their high school friends on the weekends. Bottom line: every college freshman has to make an adjustment to college, but for these kids, they must also adjust to a new city, new environs and to truly being on their own
Speaking just for myself, while I welcome with open arms all of the new recruits (and as an alumnus, I feel that way about all of the new students whether they play football or not ), there’s a special place in my heart for the out-of-town kids – it’s like with their parents hundreds or even thousands of miles away, it’s up to the entire Bruin family to look after these players and let their families know they are in good hands.
Over the years, some of my favorite players have been from outside of Los Angeles or Orange County. There’s no better place to start than with the two best UCLA quarterbacks of my lifetime: Troy Aikman (Henryetta, Oklahoma – and yes, I know he was born in West Covina, but he grew up in Oklahoma) and Cade McNown (West Linn, Oregon). You can add our current quarterback, Brett Hundley (Chandler, Arizona) to that list as well.
The best lineman in UCLA history, Jonathan Ogden (St. Albans School, Washington D.C.) is an out of towner as was one of my favorite linebackers, Justin London, who attended Northside High in Roanoke, Virginia. Speaking of linebackers from outside of Los Angeles, I can’t finish this post without mentioning the one and only Myles Jack, out of Bellevue High School in Bellevue, Washington.
Finally, it’s important to remember that arguably the greatest football player in UCLA history is the one and only Kenny Easley, our All American safety out of Oscar F. Smith in Chesapeake, Virginia. If you are too young to remember Kenny Easley, you owe it to yourself to look him up and do some research. Kenny was an outstanding safety who began a UCLA tradition at that position that included the late Don Rogers and Eric Turner, among many others.
My list is not supposed to be all inclusive. While we’re biding our time waiting for some recruiting news and NLI day tomorrow, take some time in the comments to list your favorite out-of-town UCLA football players and your memories of them. Feel free to share your memories about some of the players I’ve mentioned as well.