Jim Mora era officially kicks off

BY foxsports • August 30, 2012

Football is a tough game to leave behind. Look no further than Brett Favre and his infamous flip-flopping. To retire, or not to retire? That is the question.

After spending nearly a lifetime on the gridiron, burnout is inevitable for many. But for some, there’s a force that keeps pulling them back to the field every August. It takes a considerable amount of passion and drive to return to a life of two-a-days and sleepless nights spent memorizing the playbook.

Jim Mora knows this feeling well. Raised on the football field by his former college and NFL coach father, Jim E. Mora, the first-year UCLA head coach took a path similar to his father's with head coaching stints for his hometown Seattle Seahawks and the Atlanta Falcons.

Two years ago, Mora left the field but never quite left the game, becoming an analyst for FOX Sports. In his two years in the booth, Mora enjoyed the game through a different medium. He enjoyed spending time with his four kids and enjoyed being around his former college team, Washington, again. But during a time period that could be described as introspective, Mora discovered that he was not ready to walk away from coaching football

“It was great in a lot of ways and it was revealing in a lot of ways,” Mora said. “It gave me some time to spend around the University of Washington and that great program with (athletic director) Scott Woodward and Steve Sarkisian and reinvigorate myself for the college game.”

While Mora is no stranger to the Bruin tradition — his father served as an assistant coach under former UCLA coach Dick Vermeil — when the Bruins open the season Thursday night in Houston against Rice, it will be Mora’s first time taking the reigns of his own collegiate program. As with any new head coach, he’s been faced with challenges.

The football program has been mediocre at best when the expectations in Westwood are always to win. Veteran players brought in under the Rick Neuheisel regime, including the former head coach’s son Jerry, have to blend in with a highly-touted recruiting class and Mora has to adapt to coaching at a collegiate level, which requires a significant amount of micro-managing in comparison to the professional ranks.

Luckily for the Bruins, Mora has been a quick study. Mora says he has not only adjusted to the collegiate level but is appreciating the maturation process of the team both on and off the field.

“What I really enjoy which is just the relationships with the student-athletes and this age group,” Mora said. “They’re very impressionable and it’s a lot of fun to be around. These kids hang on every word and you feel a real sense of responsibility to them not only as football players, but as students and people.”

Acting as a mentor of sorts is a particularly touching aspect of the college game, and for Mora, it’s a duty he takes seriously.

“You’re essentially kind of an extension of their parents in regards to helping them become the men that their parents want them to be.”

On the field, Mora is encouraged by what he has seen so far. He says the team has progressed to the level he expected them to be at coming into their first game. The questions surrounding a new quarterback in Brett Hundley and a somewhat experienced offensive line are questions he is confident will be answered Thursday night in Houston.

Anxious for the arrival of game day, and optimistic about the future of UCLA football, Mora is ready to get back on the field.

“It’s going to be my first time going out there in the UCLA shirt and hat in a competitive environment,” Mora said. “More than anything I’m excited to just watch our guys go out and enjoy doing what they do which is play football. Cut it loose and have fun.”

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