LOS ANGELES — The speculation surrounding the UCLA football program is over. On Monday morning, Bruins’ star quarterback Brett Hundley sat at the podium at the J.D. Morgan Center Press room with only one hat: A UCLA Bruins hat.
Hundley officially announced his intentions to stay at UCLA next season and play his redshirt junior season.
"I came to UCLA for a reason," Hundley said. "Just for me personally but to help bring UCLA back to national prominence, and I think that was the one thing that sort of stuck in my head when talking to friends and talking to people around me."
The decision, he explained, was more complicated than he initially thought. Hundley had games this season in which he looked as though he had regressed in certain areas, but the high points outweighed the lows. Brilliant performances against USC and Virginia Tech in the Sun Bowl had his NFL Draft stock high — as high as the first round.
The noise was difficult to ignore.
"I honestly thought it was going to be an easy decision going into this. But it’s not," Hundley said. "Once you get to the mock drafts and you see all of them come out, you see top-10 going to the Oakland Raiders or maybe Cleveland or when Adam Schefter tweets out that there’s GMs that have me first on their board — all of that was a factor."
It was close. "It could have been a coin flip at one point," said Hundley, who reached out to former teammates like Johnathan Franklin and Datone Jones for advice.
From his NFL background, head coach Jim Mora knew that Hundley was likely a first-round pick. He sensed that Hundley was torn and made a decision early on not to try to sway his quarterback in one direction or another.
I, like everybody else, was kind of on pins and needles trying to see what he decided.
-- Jim Mora
Finally, Sunday night, Hundley came to him with the news.
"I, like everybody else, was kind of on pins and needles trying to see what he decided," Mora said. "What I respected about Brett and his decision is that it was well thought out. He showed the type of man he is by making this decision."
Mora isn’t afraid to say that Hundley is now a viable Heisman Trophy candidate. Mora and Hundley have taken a mediocre program and transformed it in just two short seasons. Last season, they were within striking distance of the Rose Bowl. This season was the program’s first 10-win year since 2005.
All the stars have really aligned to put together something really special at UCLA.
-- Brett Hundley
The building process isn’t done yet and while getting a degree was just as important as winning a Pac-12 Championship, Hundley knows that this team is ready to move to the next level.
"All the stars have really aligned to put together something really special at UCLA," Hundley said. "Not just something that you’ll forget about but something that we’ll remember when we get old. We’ll be able to look back and say, ‘I was part of that team and that program and helped bring them back to where they need to be.’"